Thursday, November 30, 2006

Book Report: Cold Day Reading

In the "Texas Weather: Gotta Love It" department, yesterday the high was 80 degrees. It was hot and muggy. Many of my neighbors had their air conditioners running. Right now, it's about 28 degrees (and dropping), with a mix of sleet and freezing rain. Seriously. It's not climate change or anything (yesterday's high wasn't even a record -- the record from 1927 still stands). It's just this part of the world. I remember when I was a kid in Oklahoma how we could be playing outside in t-shirts one day and playing outside in the snow the next. It makes packing for travel at this time of year challenging. You pretty much have to bring clothing for all seasons, because you never know, and even the forecasts aren't always that accurate. This one, however, was on the nose, so I'm prepared. The temperatures dropped amazingly fast yesterday. I took a load of trash out to the dumpster across the street at 5:30 and it was hot (upper 70s). I took another load out (all that cleaning and organizing) at 6:30 and it was too cold to stay out in shirtsleeves longer than to run across the street. I was shivering by the time I got back inside. The temperature dropped something like 20 degrees in an hour.

It's supposed to change to snow around noon, so I may go with it and put on some Christmas music and start my holiday baking. It's on days like this that I'm glad I no longer have a job that requires driving to work. Then again, I don't really get snow days, either, but none of the places where I've worked ever closed for bad weather. You had to take a sick day if you didn't want to come to work on icy roads.

The weather change means I can re-start a seasonally adjusted regular feature. Instead of the t-shirt of the day, we've got the sweatshirt of the day. Today's sweatshirt is "Oxford University," a souvenir from the Best Vacation Ever. In the fall of 2000, on a bit of a whim, I bought a plane ticket to London. I did a little Internet research and decided Oxford would be where I went. I got some very inexpensive lodgings at a bed-and-breakfast, and from there I could catch a train or bus to just about anywhere I wanted to go. I saw lots of locations from Connie Willis's Oxford novels (I'll have to post a photo essay), wandered the most amazing castle, did some hiking in the Cotswolds and explored London. And I drank gallons of tea (the tea really does taste different/better there -- maybe it's the water?).

A day like today seems good for talking about books, and I recently read a really astounding one, Suite Francaise, by Irene Nemirovsky (there are various accents and such in her name and that little curly c-like character in the title, but I don't know how to do those in HTML). The story behind this book is worthy of a book, in and of itself. Irene Nemirovsky was born in Russia, and her family fled during the revolution when she was a teen. They eventually ended up in Paris. She sold her first novel at the age of 26, and the publisher at first thought she had to be a front for some famous novelist who wanted to remain anonymous, the book was so accomplished. By the time the war started, when she was in her late 30s, she was an accomplished, rather well-known novelist, and at least one of her books was made into a film. She and her husband and two young daughters left Paris for the French countryside when the Germans invaded in 1940. One of the things she did to occupy herself during this time was write. She was always scribbling in a notebook. Although she was of Jewish heritage, she and her family had never been practicing Jews, and she and her husband had become Catholic, were practicing Catholics and were raising their daughters as Catholics. They apparently thought this would be enough to keep them safe from the Nazis. But when German declared war on the Soviet Union, she and her Russian-born husband became "enemy alien Jews." She was arrested and deported in 1942, and her husband tried everything to get her freed, sending all kinds of documentation that her novels were proof she was anti-Soviet, that although she was born in Russia, she'd left before it became the Soviet Union. His efforts were no good, however, as she died in Auschwitz. He didn't realize this, though, and kept trying until he, too, was arrested and deported. He also died in the Auschwitz gas chambers.

A family friend was able to get the daughters away before they were captured, and kept them in hiding throughout the rest of the war. Before they escaped, the oldest daughter grabbed her mother's notebook and stuffed it in her suitcase, just so she would have something of her mother's to remember her by. She assumed it was a journal and could never bring herself to read it, even though she kept it throughout her life. A few years ago, she decided she ought to donate it to an archive of war-related records, and she thought she ought to type it up for donation, since it was handwritten in very small lettering (paper was at a premium). Only then did she realize it was a novel -- her mother's final one -- and notes for it. So it was finally published, more than 60 years after it was written.

Suite Francaise was originally intended to be a five-part "cycle" of connected novellas, each about a different aspect of the war. Only the first two parts were completed, with some notes about what she imagined would go on to happen with the major characters. She wasn't sure how to end it because that all depended on how the war went, and in 1942 that was very uncertain. The published book contains those first two parts, as well as her notes about the entire cycle and copies of relevant correspondence to and from the author, her husband, and various people in their lives. "A Storm in June" is about the impending invasion and the flight from Paris as various people tried to escape ahead of the oncoming invaders. This segment introduces most of the major characters for the work as a whole. The second part, "Dolce," is about the occupation in one village, and how the villagers interact with each other and with their German occupiers while the war itself seems rather distant. It does come to a conclusion, so it's not as though it ends on a cliffhanger, but by then I had become so invested in the characters that I really wanted to know more about what happened to them. The notes give a vague sort of framework, and from there it's kind of fun to let your imagination play, knowing what we know now about how the war did end.

Even without its fascinating history, this is a really good book. Nemirovsky had an amazing talent for characterization, with the ability to find the few crucial details that give you a remarkably clear picture of exactly who this person is. This is very much a "homefront" novel. It's about how the war affects ordinary people rather than focusing on pivotal historical figures, decision makers, military leaders or even people with crucial roles. It's about families, housewives whose husbands are prisoners of war, farmers, and other ordinary citizens. Even the German soldiers are mostly just homesick kids who had other plans for their lives. These are all people just trying to cope with events that are beyond their control. It's more about human nature, social conventions and how different people react to difficult times than it is about the war itself or even any big issues related to the war. The war is mostly off-stage.

Reading this book made me want to look up the author's other books. This was essentially a fragment of a rough draft, so I'd love to see what her finished, polished books would be like. I love her voice and writing style. Unfortunately, they're long out of print and my library doesn't have any of them. I hope that the success of this book might lead to her other books being reissued (the US publisher is part of Random House, so I may see if I can try to drop a few hints).

While I'm talking about books, we've got another Out of the Blogosphere Entry (the books with sf/fantasy/horror and romantic elements). Inferno by Vivi Anna continues the story of her near-future heroine, Kat. Kat needs to find a scientist rumored to have created an antidote to a deadly virus, but he's hiding out in the violent underground city of Inferno. Her one-time lover Hades will take Kat where she needs to go, but only if she promises to be his, body and soul. You can read an excerpt at her web site. (Note: This one is for grown-ups only -- in other words, it's on the hot and spicy side.)

You know, this may be a good day to read the new Dick Francis book. The sound of sleet on my tile roof and skylight makes for an excellent mystery backdrop.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Cleaning and Organizing Adventures

I'm feeling rather tired and accomplished at the moment. Today I cleaned my oven, cleaned the downstairs bathtub, rearranged the whole vanity/countertop area to mostly clear it and sorted through a box of stuff that had been sitting in the niche under the counter that I presume is supposed to be for a stool or chair. Based on the contents of the box, I'm guessing it was what had been in my nightstand before I moved into this house. There were a lot of school photos of friends, a few other little sentimental items, my diaries and a lot of random pamphlets and brochures. I am very proud to say that I did not get sidetracked by looking at the photos or reading the diaries.

I'd bought one of those tension rod shelf holders for in the bathtub so I could get all the shampoo bottles off the rim of the tub for easier cleaning in the future, and that turned out to be a bit of an adventure. There was a piece of it you were supposed to put together, according to the instructions. Only, it had already been put together in the box, and it had been put together the wrong way. I didn't realize this until I'd put together the rest of the rod, so I then had to try to take it apart. That involved much wrestling and even the trick of filling it with ice while pouring hot water on it. Then I discovered that it must have been designed to sit on the floor and go up to the ceiling. I left out one section so I could put it on the rim of the tub. Then I found that my tub is ridiculously high (it's a garden tub), while my ceiling in that area is rather low, so I had to take the spring out and just wedge the rod in there. But I did it. Go, me!

Now I need to iron my freshly washed shower curtain and put up the new liner so I can take a shower tonight, but that may have to come later as I also need to collapse for a while. Tomorrow I'll go back to doing writing-type work. I guess that oncoming storm front made me all restless the way that kind of thing tends to affect animals.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Writing Brain Mode

I started outlining my possible standalone novel so I could write a synopsis last night, and I'm now solidly back in writing brain mode. In other words, I can't seem to sleep. I hope they like this idea enough to buy it because now I really want to write it. The characters started coming to life in my brain last night, acting out scenes. I'm seeing it almost like a movie.

Then once I get that synopsis written, I'll turn to book 5 of my series. I bet then I really won't get any sleep. Those characters tend to get jealous when I write about other people, so I'm sure they'll start nagging me soon enough.

I am so far behind on e-mail, it isn't even funny. I didn't realize that I have reader mail going all the way back to September. Occasionally I get into procrastination mode about something and can't seem to make myself deal with it, even if it's something I like doing and want to do. I also have friends and family members I need to respond to, but lately, as addicted as I am to e-mail, I've been cringing and shying away from it. I'm making that tomorrow's mission, to finish dealing with it all, once and for all.

Meanwhile, my cleaning and organization mission continues. Today I hit the stores and got some storage stuff, including some stacking plastic drawers to go inside my bathroom cabinet (because they didn't bother to include actual drawers when building my house) and a DVD/video shelf. A lot of the clutter in my living room is the stacks of DVDs that have no place to go. My electric screwdriver is currently recharging, and then I'll finish putting it together, then put all the DVDs away. It's sad how excited the idea of this makes me. Housewares stores can be really, really dangerous for me. I find myself thinking a bit beyond where I currently am, to the point where I find myself imagining the swanky parties I could throw if I just got a few things. I think first I need to get to the point I'll open the front door more than a crack before I need to even think about throwing parties.

Meanwhile, I found another fun procrastination tool at Library Thing. My user name is shannaswendson, in case you want to see what I have in my library. I've only just started, so this is in no way complete. I've been a wee bit obsessive about making sure that I'm putting in the exact edition that I have. Not that it matters all that much in the long run. There's one book where I'm the only person who has it listed, but that's because it hasn't been released yet and I happen to have the manuscript. Ha! And I'm not talking about my own book. Though I suppose I should add that one, since I do own it, in a sense, and have read it. Hmm, on that one, I wasn't the first. Funny. I'm the author, it hasn't been released yet, and I'm not the first one to catalog it!

I bet my screwdriver has recharged, so off to play with my new toys!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Girlfriends Cyber Circuit Presents Kyra Davis

I'm back "in the office," so to speak, after the holiday weekend, and just in time for another visit on the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit. My guest is Kyra Davis. She's best known for her humorous mystery series that includes the book Sex, Murder, and a Double Latte, but her latest book is a bit of a departure. In So Much for My Happy Ending, she applies her trademark wit and humor to a very serious subject: mental illness. In writing this book, she drew upon her own experiences married to a man with bipolar disorder whose behavior eventually led to divorce.

So Much for My Happy Ending is the story of April, who is marrying Tad, the man of her dreams. But on their honeymoon, Tad's withdrawn behavior, his refusal to leave the hotel room, and other disturbing behavior are cause for alarm. The novel chronicles every step of April's relationship with Tad, from the engagement and subsequent marriage, through the unraveling and finally the turning point. As April tries to cope with what is happening to her husband, Tad is grappling with the demons that are driving him apart from April and threaten to destroy the one stable anchor in his tumultuous life.

I interviewed Kyra about this very personal book.

How did you decide to write a book so closely linked to your personal experiences?
At first I was scared to write it. I wanted to make sure the door was open to my ex in the event that he ever wanted to co-parent with me and I was afraid that if I wrote a book featuring a marriage that bore a striking resemblance to ours he would never be comfortable enough with me to do that. But two years after my divorce I spoke to my ex on the phone and it became clear that he had no intention of sharing parenting responsibilities with me. Nor did he intend to get treatment for his illness (despite having been briefly hospitalized after an "episode"). Worst of all, I found out that he was feeding his new girlfriend the same self-defeating lies and half truths that he once fed to me. At that point I realized that I wasn't helping anyone by keeping quiet. Not my ex, not my son and certainly not the new people in my ex's life. So I wrote this book. I took great pains to be fair and I truly don't feel that any of my characters are villains. My protagonist, April, is imperfect and partially responsible for the stressers in her life. Like my ex, April's husband has a good heart. He's just lost. As I'm doing this interview, I'm sitting next to my ex's brother, his wife and their children. The fact that they have bought the novel and continue to support me validates my decision to write it and proves to me that I was just in my portrayals of both the characters and the situations I have chronicled.

How did you respond emotionally to writing a book that was so personal? Was it cathartic, or did you find yourself reliving the pain?
It was both cathartic and emotionally exhausting. When I finished I remember feeling like I needed a drink. But I also felt somehow cleansed. There were so many emotions and issues that I had been trying to sort out and this book truly helped me with that.

Should people read this book as a fictionalized autobiography, or is it more of a truly fictional work informed by your personal experiences?
That's a tough question. It's probably as accurate as James Fry's "memoir." I'm not saying that to be catty, I really mean it. Like Fry, I have changed a lot of the details. In some cases I made things more dramatic, in other cases I actually understated things. Very few of the events that take place in So Much For My Happy Ending happened within my life and yet I have had a parallel experience to almost everything that April goes through.

Did you learn anything about yourself and your experiences or gain any new insights from writing the book?
When you're in the middle of a crisis it's hard to see things clearly. Even the things you "know" come into question. As I wrote about April and her husband Tad I began to see things clearly. I can't say I was detached from what I was writing but I did have just enough distance from what was happening to my characters to see the big picture. I can now see that the issues I had with my ex were (and are) valid and I can also see that our problems weren't one sided. I set myself up to be hurt. I didn't always handle things well. I own that. Now I'm ready and able to move on and I know that while I'm bound to make more mistakes in my life and in my future relationships I won't make those mistakes.

What advice would you have for women going through a similar situation?
There is a very fine line between being supportive and being an enabler. If someone you know is psychologically ill or an addict (the manifestations of two conditions are oddly similar) then you should do whatever you can to help them help themselves. Find them a psychiatrist/treatment-center. Research the different treatments options and medications. Ask to go to therapy sessions with them. Give them your ear when they need to talk and your shoulder when they need to cry. And above all, be patient with them. No one changes over night, no matter how good the therapist or drug. But if the person you're with refuses treatment or to even admit they have a problem you need to seriously consider leaving. The harsh reality is that many people need to hit rock bottom before they're willing to get help and sometimes hitting rock bottom means losing an important relationship. If you continue to hang around and prop them up, giving them chance after chance without ever drawing the line as to how much you're willing to take you're not only hurting yourself you're also preventing the man you love from being able to face his demons.

Is there anything else you'd like to say about this book or the process of writing it?
This book isn't about revenge. I bear my ex no ill will -- quite the opposite. If he called me tomorrow and said that he was ready to see a psychiatrist again, stop self-medicating with alcohol and start taking legitimate prescribed medication I would give him my full support and even try to reintroduce him to his son and try to help facilitate both his recovery and a positive relationship between him and our child. I could never be with him in a romantic sense again. I simply don't have those feelings for him anymore. However, I want him to be okay -- so this book isn't a tool in a vendetta. It's more like a very public intervention.

What are you working on now?
I'm writing the fourth Sophie Katz mystery. The third Sophie book, Obsession, Deceit And Really Dark Chocolate, will be out in September 07. The Sophie books have no bearing to my actual life---well that's not entirely true. I do love dark chocolate.

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

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Home From the Holidays

I'm home from the holiday, with a refrigerator full of leftovers, so I shouldn't have to cook or go grocery shopping for a few days. I may also turn into a turkey or a pan of cornbread dressing, but that's a risk I'll have to take (I do have some non-turkey leftovers, as well).

Although supposedly the holiday season has begun (depending on who you listen to -- I kind of like going by the liturgical calendar and using Advent as a marker), I really don't feel it. It still feels more fall to me. That could be because the trees outside my office window have finally started to turn. They're a bright red/orange, and when the sun hits them, it looks like the trees are on fire. I think I'm going to enjoy the "fall" feeling at least until December starts, and then I can begin thinking about Christmas. The last weather forecast I heard, we may get our first freeze later this week, which could alter my mindset. It's hard to feel all Christmasy when it's nearly 80 degrees outside.

My holiday was nice and relaxing. While I was at my parents' house, I never left the house the whole time. We just hung out, eating, napping, reading and watching TV. I did a little work, reading through a book for some background material, but otherwise, I tried to make it a real holiday, for a change. Tomorrow, however, work kicks in again. I have book proposals to write. I'm currently in the brainstorming phase, which is possibly my favorite part of writing books (other than depositing the advance checks). During this phase, the books exist as infinite possibilities. Anything could happen, and I can mentally explore all those possibilities (well, some of them) without risk and without committing myself. It's like playing make-believe as a kid, but instead of building forts in the backyard I'm lying on my couch. "Hey, what if ..." It only starts to feel like work when I have to write down the story that's taking shape in my head.

I have a few more hours of sluggishness, though, and I plan to enjoy them thoroughly.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Stranger Than Fiction

In my ongoing quest to try to take some time off while also gearing up to write something new, I hiked up the hill today to go see Stranger Than Fiction. In case you haven't heard about it yet, the basic idea is that a man realizes that he's a character in a novel when he starts to hear a voice narrating his life. Meanwhile, a novelist struggles with a bad case of writer's block when she can't figure out how to kill off her main character.

I loved this movie. It's going on my list to buy the DVD as soon as it comes out because I found it very inspiring. I'm not sure how well it would play to people who don't make their living writing novels, but the other people in the theater were also laughing out loud, and we couldn't all have been novelists. It really said a lot about life and about writing, while also being sweet, romantic, funny, heartbreaking and entertaining. And yes, it made me cry.

Let's just say I'm very glad I write comedy and haven't yet killed a character because otherwise I'd be in big trouble if my characters figured out what I was doing to them. My people have magical powers, so that could get interesting. Fortunately, I write first person, so I kind of get to hide behind Katie, and she shouldn't be aware that anyone outside her head is narrating her life. She'd just think she's talking to herself.

My one complaint is that I think they could have done better than Will Farrell in the lead role. He plays everything he does as if he's the Tom Hanks character in Big, the child trapped in a man's body (who's generally more childish than any real child would be). That naive/innocent man-child shtick didn't work so well for me here. Instead of hiring a comic for this role, maybe they should have gone with an actor better known for playing dramatic roles. While the meta stuff about the story was funny, the character and his life weren't funny, and the trademarked Will Farrell childish temper tantrums were a distraction. If they had to get a comic, I think Steve Carell could have totally rocked this part. Even when he's playing characters who look silly to us, he plays them with a sort of gravitas, like he's treating them as dramatic roles.

I came out of the movie all inspired to write. So I immediately came home and baked bread (I can write later, but I might not be allowed inside my parents' house tomorrow if I don't bring bread with me). Speaking of tomorrow, I'll be heading over the rivers (Trinity and Sabine) and through the woods to my parents' house for Thanksgiving, and I probably won't be checking in here before I leave, since I want to get out of town before traffic gets bad.

Monday, November 20, 2006

A Sofa Slug Weekend

I thoroughly enjoyed my first weekend off in forever. I did get a little cleaning/organizing done and did start on my one major work project for the week so I wouldn't have to deal with it later, but otherwise, I just relaxed and had fun. Saturday, I stayed on the sofa, working crossword puzzles and watching "What Not to Wear." I went out to dinner with some friends that night at the neighborhood Italian restaurant, then came home and curled up on the sofa watching a movie.

Sunday after church and a bit of grocery shopping, TCM seemed to be having a marathon of classic 1970s romantic comedies, with Annie Hall and The Goodbye Girl. Would you believe, I hadn't seen either of them? And would I sound like a total rube if I said I thought they were both a bit overrated? Maybe they were a reflection of their times, or maybe it's just that I find the nebbishy, neurotic, pretentiously intellectual type so totally unappealing. I think I liked The Goodbye Girl better than Annie Hall because it was romantic at its core, and I really believed the developing relationship (it did make me cry a few times), while the characters in Annie Hall struck me as mouthpieces for dialogue that Woody Allen was particularly proud of, and it never actually felt like a relationship to me (it's the same problem I had with Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip -- that tone of smug "see how smart and witty I am?" self-congratulation that permeates everything). I can see how When Harry Met Sally was criticized for being something of a remake of Annie Hall with a different ending, but I like When Harry Met Sally better. I wasn't exactly swooning over Billy Crystal as a leading man, and he's not my type by any means, but Harry felt like a real character, and their relationship felt painfully genuine.

I must also say that I'm very glad I wasn't an adult during the 1970s. The kids' clothes were bad enough, but at least there's the excuse that I was a kid and not exactly trying to make a fashion statement. I'm sure one day I may cringe just as badly when I watch 1990s movies, but I can't think of any particular trend I was ever photographed wearing in the 1990s that could possibly look as bad as mid-1970s clothes and hair. The 80s? Oh yeah, embarrassment there, but I was a teenager, and you're supposed to look like a dork when you look back at your teenage years. Still, I know there's no photograph of me wearing legwarmers. Suspenders, sweater vests and skinny ties, yeah. Stirrup pants, maybe (I did own them, but don't know if there's evidence of that). I did own one pair of legwarmers, given to me as a gift by a relative, but I never wore them outside the house. I may have put them on once, then promptly realized that while they might look great on tall, skinny dancer types, on a short, pudgy girl with short legs, they just made the legs look even shorter and the butt look bigger, so they were quickly relegated to the back of the sock drawer.

In addition to coming up with a proposal for a fifth book in my series, I also have to come up with a synopsis for a standalone book. I'm just starting to have things play around in my brain and take shape, and in a weird way, I almost feel like I'm cheating on my series characters. I haven't seriously written anything that wasn't about these characters in several years, and they have an annoying habit of jumping up with interesting tidbits and stories to tell the moment I even try to write something else. That doesn't help with the sense that I'm being unfaithful. Fortunately, this new story seems like it's shaping up to be strong enough to hold up even with some outcry from the series characters. It's totally different, but still kind of quirky and magical. It also may come as close as I ever get to being in any way autobiographical.

And now I must return to my cleaning, sorting and organizing. I'm determined to leave the house clean so it won't be depressing to come home after Thanksgiving and so I'll be ready to put up Christmas decorations without having to shove clutter aside first.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Romance Like in the Movies

It's a Friday, and I'm at home. That's such a new and different thing for me. It's been about a month since I got to be at home on a Friday night, and it's such a good feeling to know I have nothing ahead of me tonight but an evening on the sofa with the Sci Fi Channel and my electric blanket. I've got a frozen pizza to bake (the good kind, with the rising crust), and I have an apple cake I baked last night (from my new Joy of Cooking book). Yes, call me Miss Excitement!

I'm really luxuriating in this homebody thing, and it's the perfect time of year for it, too. It's finally getting cold enough for things like hot cider and the electric blanket. That's why Wednesday was such a great reading day, and I had the perfect book for it.

Love Walked In, by Marisa de los Santos, is something that might fit into the chick lit category, given the overall tone and subject matter, but I don't know if it would piss off the author to have it classified that way, since she's got a PhD in creative writing and is a poet. Her background as a poet shows through in the way she uses words, but really, the book is romantic in a swoonworthy way that makes you think of old movies.

There are two "heroines" with parallel story lines that eventually intersect. Cornelia is a 30-something woman who still isn't sure what she wants to be when she grows up. She has a habit of seeing the world in terms of old movies (she moved to Philadelphia primarily because that's where The Philadelphia Story was set), so when a Cary Grant lookalike walks into the coffee shop she runs, she takes it as a sign that her life is about to change. And she's right.

Meanwhile, there's Clare, eleven years old and living a privileged life with her glamorous single mother. But then her mother starts acting odd and Clare doesn't know where to turn for guidance other than her list of favorite literary orphans (including Anne Shirley, Mary Lennox and Harry Potter).

This book's a two-hankie tearjerker that also makes you laugh and makes you feel all warm and fuzzy by the end. It makes you want to go out and fall in love like they do in old movies. It's also the kind of book that makes me feel like a hack. I'm not sure I have it in me to write something that lovely because that's just not the way I write. I'm more of a storyteller than a wordsmith, and if I started trying to get all poetical with my language, it would only come across as affected, like a high school paper written by a kid who's just discovered the thesaurus.

One of my favorite passages:
"I'm a fan of suggestion, obliquity, discretion, the cut to the morning after, the camera's eye turning upward, outward -- to the sky, to the cuckoo clock over the bed, to the rushing river, away. Forget those slick bodies tangled on the floor or grappling on kitchen tables. Sexy is Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed talking into the same telephone receiver, their anger tipping reluctantly over into desire, the desire as much in the distance separating their two mouths as in their proximity to each other."

And yeah, that's one of my favorite scenes in It's a Wonderful Life, too. Though I disagree with her assertion elsewhere in the book that "Jimmy Stewart is always and indisputably the best man in the world, unless Cary Grant should happen to show up." I'd take Jimmy any day. (Sad true fact: When I heard on the radio at work that Jimmy Stewart had died, I spent the rest of the day hiding out in the video editing suite in the ad agency where I worked, crying. I'm still not sure why.)

I heard about this book at Trashionista and checked it out of the library, but when it comes out in paperback, I'm buying it. I have a feeling it will become one of my "comfort food" books.

I have a pretty long list of books I need to talk about, but I'd have to consult my list to put together a proper book report. I'll save that for another post.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Girlfriends Cyber Circuit Presents Lola Douglas

Ah, yesterday was such a lovely, blustery day. I got next to nothing accomplished, but I thoroughly enjoyed spending the afternoon curled up with a good book, a pot of tea and some great music. I'll chat about the book tomorrow, but today is a Girlfriends Cyber Circuit day.

My guest is Lola Douglas, author of True Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet, which just came out in paperback, and the new sequel, More Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet.

In the first book, teen star Morgan Carter's mom is trying to kill her. At least, that's what Morgan thinks when she's sent to Ft. Wayne, Indiana, after a near overdose outside LA's Viper Room.

Morgan's going to recover out of the spotlight. Way out. She's given a major make-under, a new name, and a completely different identity. Morgan's plan? To write a tell-all book about her experience and stage a comeback. But when this LA girl finds love and a new life in Middle America, will she abandon it for another shot at superstardom?

In the sequel, just when Morgan Carter was falling in love with the simple life she'd built in Fort Wayne, Indiana, her true identity as an infamous Hollywood starlet was exposed. Now Morgan has a choice to make: return to her glamorous movie star existence--or stick with the wholesome life, and the new love, she's found in the Midwest.

And now, the interview:
What was the inspiration behind these books?
I wanted to write a diary format book. And, of course, I wanted to try something that hadn't been done before.
Did you have a particular starlet in mind when you created your heroine?
Yeah, Drew Barrymore. I've always been fascinated with her, even back when I was a wee tot.

(I still have a hard time connecting today's Drew Barrymore to the little girl in ET. But that's not as freaky to me as the fact that Henry Thomas is now playing romantic leading man roles. I'll see him in movies and think he's really cute and love his character, and then a little voice in the back of my brain says, "That's the little kid from ET," and then I feel like a dirty old woman.)

Aside from the fame and celebrity ;-) do you have anything else in common with your heroine?
I can relate to Drew on many levels - maybe not the acting stuff, but the relationships she had with each of her parents is similar to the ones I had with mine.

Do you follow Hollywood gossip, read tabloids and that kind of thing, for research or for fun?
For fun, of course! I mean, even if I didn't write books about starlets, I'd still be the kind of person to freak out on election night when discovering that Britney Spears chose that day to quietly file for divorce from K-Fed.

What are you working on now?
A non-STARLET book. This time about a girl named Gretchen and a TV show called SILVER SPRING. That's about all I can say, though. :)

Is there anything else you'd like to say about these books or the process of writing them?
Just that they're so fun to write. I'm a big fan of chick lit, but especially brainy chick lit with soul. So that's kind of what I went for with the Starlet books. One of the comments I get most often is that there's more substance in them than the reader had expected. I take that as a huge compliment.

For more info on Lola or her books, visit her web site.

And now off to attempt to accomplish something. Today's missions: get groceries and clean the kitchen floor.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Reading Weather

I've often mentioned how freaky Texas weather can be. The latest example: Yesterday, it was warm and sunny (though not in my house, which was cold. I was all bundled up in my heaviest sweatsuit, then stepped outside to get the mail and was surprised by how warm it was). Today? A front came through, so it's cloudy and cold, with gusting winds. The view of the trees outside my window looks like footage of hurricanes. The winds are something like 15 miles per hour steadily, with gusts up to 50 miles per hour.

What does that mean for me? It's reading weather! It's finally cold enough to curl up on the chaise lounge on the loft, with a pot of tea, a good book and some Ella Fitzgerald on the stereo. The book I'm reading now seems tailor made for this kind of day (I'll talk about it when I'm through reading it if I still like it).

I made major house-cleaning inroads yesterday. I put a CD on my portable player, then while the CD played I had to work in that room. I got the kitchen mostly cleaned, then cleared off the "nest" that seems to develop on and around my sofa and coffee table. My big organization feat was putting up a big hook on the wall in my laundry room to hold the big basin I use for pre-soaking clothes, which had been taking up space in my pantry. I got rid of several grocery bags full of trash, and this morning when I used up a tub of margarine, I actually threw the empty tub away instead of saving it to hold leftovers. I already have several of those containers, plus some good kitchen storage containers. I didn't need another one, in spite of all my saving instincts (if I believed in reincarnation, I'd swear I lived through the Depression in my previous life).

I probably ought to do more cleaning today, but you have to take advantage of perfect reading weather when you get it. I just hope the winds don't blow all the leaves off the trees outside my window before they turn their usual crimson. These trees usually stay mostly green until early December, when they turn a deep, dark red. And then they turn brown, fall off, and cover my patio.

Ooh, and if I finish the book I'm reading, I have the new Dick Francis mystery, but that seems more of a rainy-day book. If only it would rain ...

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The To-Do (But Don't Really Want To) List

Yesterday I was very tired, couldn't seem to get warm, and had a splitting headache. It finally occurred to me that I might be sick. Even if it wasn't a germy kind of thing, it's entirely possible that my body went on strike after all I've put it through lately. I felt a bit better after sleeping the afternoon away. I woke up again with a headache this morning, but I suspect sinuses might be involved because taking a decongestant made a big difference.

I'm not adapting well to having free time (though the sick and/or body on strike thing could have something to do with this). I finally have all the time I need to take care of all sorts of little tasks, and I find myself not wanting to do anything at all. I don't have the excuse of not having time to deal with it. I just don't want to. I really do seem to have two speeds: on and off. I'm either going nuts and running myself ragged, or I can't seem to do anything at all and turn into a total slug.

Maybe I should go with it for a while, though I do want to clean my house. I'm reading a really good book right now, and for some very strange reason, that makes me want to have a clean house. It's like I feel I'm doing the book a disservice by not reading it in an appropriate atmosphere. It's not a book that should be read surrounded by piles of clutter. I suspect the decongestant will help with that, because it's going to make napping difficult. There's a reason you practically need a criminal background check, a note from your doctor and a note from your mother (notarized) to buy that stuff these days. If just taking a Sudafed does this to me, I think I'll stay totally away from the crystal meth. That would be overkill (probably literally).

I'm overjoyed that Friday Night Lights, my new TV addiction, got a full-season pickup. Go, NBC! Let's hope that giving well-made shows with a small but devoted fan base time to build into something more becomes a new trend. It's so much better than yanking something that's not an instant hit.

And, wouldn't you know, when I have time to play online, Television Without Pity seems to be down? It's a conspiracy to make me clean my house.

Speaking of television, So Say We All, the book on Battlestar Galactica, is out now. I got all excited to see my name on the back cover. I feel like such a star. Here's the link to B&N. I guess I need to update my web site. Just one more item for the To-Do (But I Don't Really Want To) List.

Monday, November 13, 2006


So, I'm home for more than a week this time. I've forgotten what that feels like. I'll even be home for Friday night, for the first time in more than a month. I don't have anything major or pressing on the agenda today, and it's kind of cold -- cold enough to bring out the fuzzy pink bathrobe. It's actually not all that cold outside, but it was cold this morning, and my house doesn't warm up much during the day. That's lovely in the summer, but in cooler times of year it means the house can often be colder than it is outside, unless I turn the heat on, and I'm not yet ready for the heater. I'll be all cold inside, then bundle up to go outside and realize that it's actually not so bad outside.

I'm pretty tired (gee, I wonder why), so I'm seriously considering a nap. That sounds so decadent! Maybe a walk later in the day. It's going to take getting used to the concept of free time.

But not for long. My agent's back from vacation, and the, "So, do you have anything written up we can try to sell?" e-mails have started, and if I want to be able to participate in my own Noncomformists Novel Writing Month in January, I guess I need to sell something so I'll have something to write. The plan is to spend this week thinking while I try to clean my house. The first half of next week, before the holiday, will be my pre-book "retreat." I may do some outlining and brainstorming over the Thanksgiving holiday. And then the week after Thanksgiving, I'll write my proposal for book 5.

To do that, I'll need to be thoroughly rested, which totally justifies an afternoon nap, I think.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

One More Signing

Wow, it looks like there's a lot of interest in the Non-Conformist Novel Writing Month in January, so let's give it a shot. I won't come up with a lot of rules, but I'll think about how to work this to give everyone the support they want -- like either doing it here or maybe creating a Yahoo group -- and possibly even see if I can come up with some prizes.

I've now survived almost all my big book-related activities for the year. I just have one library event in December. Otherwise, I'm back to the mostly private part of the job. Yep, it's back to sweats, ponytail and no makeup time.

Today's event was the Barnes & Noble booth at the Tyler Junior League's holiday bazaar. The booth was next to the main stage, where I had a great view of all the little baby ballerinas from the local dance school. Toddlers in tap shoes are adorable. I also have "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" and "Jingle Bell Rock" stuck in my head, which is downright evil. I sold a few books to people I didn't even know and also ran into a high school classmate and a distant cousin. Best of all was seeing people who'd already read at least one of my books and who were pleased to meet me in person. One person working at another booth ran out to the car to get the book she was already reading for me to sign.

Aside from the event itself, this turned out to be a great time for visiting East Texas. The fall color is spectacular this year. I was in a weird mood yesterday, a mood that had me, for some very odd reason, wanting to drive across country while belting Melissa Manchester songs at the top of my lungs. Yeah, I know, I'm strange. But her voice falls right in the middle of my ideal belting range. Unfortunately, my tape of hers, a relic of my freshman year of high school has pretty much died. The side that had "Don't Cry Out Loud" (the anthem of emotional repression) still worked, but the side with "Come in From the Rain" was almost inaudible. It may be cheesy, but I love that song, and I think there's a story in there somewhere. Even without the exact music I wanted, the drive was fun. On some of the back roads, the trees formed a colorful canopy over the road, with leaves falling like ticker-tape. Very cool.

I discovered that at times I can get WiFi access at my parents' house, but alas, whichever neighbor has the wireless network seems to have turned it off, so I'm back to dial-up. Bummer.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Non Novel-Writing Month

Thanks for the various cleaning/organizing tips. I've done the Flylady system, but it only seems to work for keeping the house clean for me. It doesn't help me get organized. She insists that you can't organize clutter. You just have to throw it out. But I have clutter that must be organized. I've also made a very ill-fated attempt at the Clean Sweep approach. The book I was reading last night, Outwitting Clutter (don't recall the author's name, and the book is downstairs) made a lot of sense to me. The author seems to think in much the same way I do, and he's an author working out of his home, so he has similar problems. He said one thing that really makes sense, that organized people probably aren't the best ones to teach disorganized people how to get organized because they don't think the same way. He also talks about finding what works for you because whenever there are a hard and fast set of rules, you're doomed to failure (I think that was part of my problem with Flylady).

Speaking of rules and such, I've realized that I'm really being a rebel. It's National Novel Writing Month, and this happens to be the month I'm taking off from writing. I've been working on a book during November for the past three years, but I've never done the NaNoWriMo thing officially, mostly because of all those rules about when you start, what you work on, and all that. I also have to ask, based on my experiences in writing books during November (and, therefore, my taking the month off this year), what sadist picked November to force yourself to write a book in a month?

For Americans, at least, it's a busy month, with a big, honking holiday in it, the kind that generally requires either travel or a lot of hosting and cooking. (I bet it was a man, and he thought he'd come up with the perfect excuse for not participating in the holiday: "Gee, honey, I'd love to help you get dinner ready or wash dishes, or entertain all my relatives that I insisted we have over, but I have to go finish my word count for the day." And then he spent the rest of the holiday in the ER having a turkey baster removed from a delicate area.) Then there's the upcoming holiday season, which requires stuff like shopping, cleaning, cooking and decorating, some of which starts in November. If you're in any kind of performing group or have kids who are doing that kind of thing, there are usually extra rehearsals to prepare for the holiday programs. High school football playoffs are going on. The last writing conferences of the year are going on. A lot of the big books are coming out, the big Oscar-bait movies are coming out and it's sweeps month on television. Talk about doomed to failure!

I think January makes for a better novel writing month, although it lacks the catchy alliteration. You go into January with all the enthusiasm of a fresh start and all those resolutions. With support and incentives, you can establish a pattern of behavior to write every day, which becomes a habit after about 28 days. Do that for the rest of the year and you can then take time off in November and December. There aren't any major holidays that month that require preparation or travel, aside from the first and, for some people, MLK Day, which is like a free day. The weather is generally not conducive to going out and doing anything. The dud movies are hitting theaters. A lot of TV is in reruns. Plus, the month has an extra day in it! It's the perfect time of year to hole up and write a book.

So, I think I'm declaring January to be novel writing month around here. Anyone else is welcome to join me. Don't feel guilty if life gets in the way this month, because there's another chance around the corner.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Clutter Attack!

I got the almost-final cover for Damsel Under Stress today. Now we just have to figure out what color the title should be. But wow, this one is really going to pop and stand out on the shelf. I'll post it when we have the final version.

I really have reached the final straw on the messy house. First, it was the challenge of finding things when I was packing. Then it was the disgust of coming home to such a mess. Finally, there's that lovely bouquet of roses, and I have no good place to put them where they aren't overwhelmed by the nearby clutter.

So, today, I've taken the first steps toward doing something about it. I went to the downtown library and found a few books on housekeeping and controlling clutter. I also got a set of shelves for the garage from Target. If I can get some things from the upstairs closets into the garage, that will open up a lot of storage space in the house.

I don't think I have to go anywhere or do anything tomorrow, so it looks like it will be a house cleaning day (in addition to getting ready to go out of town again). I can't believe I'm actually excited about this. That probably says something about the condition of my house.

I don't have anything I'm supposed to be doing tonight, so I'm going to lie on the sofa and read my decluttering books. Do I live the high life, or what? It feels odd not to have anything major hanging over my head. I need to deal with my e-mail tomorrow, but otherwise, I can relax.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Home for a Moment

I'm back home, and oh, soooooo tired. Yesterday morning when I was whimpering about having to get out of bed and drive for about four hours, I was thinking that teleportation was sounding really, really good. I desperately wanted to be home, but I didn't want to do all that driving to get there.

But I tried to make the best of it. I had honey Wheat Thins (mmmmmm!) and Dr Pepper. I had some good music. I even had something to liven up my car interior. They used yellow roses as centerpieces at the Saturday-night banquet, and one of the con committee members handed me a small bouquet (a nosegay, really) of the roses afterward when they were cleaning up. I had a Taco Cabana cup in my hotel room, so I filled it with water, enlarged the straw hole in the lid and voila, instant travel vase. I stuck it in my cup holder for the drive. It made shifting gears a little more interesting, but the smell helped when I got stuck behind a cattle truck.

I also livened up the drive home by taking a side trip I'd always been curious about. The map shows a town named "Fairy" on a farm-to-market road that runs alongside the main highway, but I've never gone that way. This time, I did, and the interesting stuff about that trip will have to wait until I get the pictures developed. That was a fun road to drive because of the topography of that part of the country. In central Texas, there are these odd limestone ridges that run randomly across the landscape. They don't seem to fit in with anything else in that part of the world. There will be flat land or gently rolling hills, and then suddenly this big ridge. The main road has been sort of cut through the ridges (there's still a big rise, but the road doesn't climb all the way to the top), but this side road had to wind around and between ridges. That was fun to drive with my stick shift, even if I did have to work around the roses, and the views were incredible.

I also experienced the vagaries of Texas weather. When I loaded my car in Austin, it was hot and muggy. When I got out to take pictures after about two hours of driving, it was so cold I had to put on my coat to be outside even for a few minutes. In Dallas, it was just slightly chilly but sunny.

I would have loved to lie around in bed half the day today, but I had a dentist appointment this morning, so I had to get up and go out. Then I had library books due, which was convenient because the polling place was in the library. I walked over because I knew parking would be a nightmare. It was the perfect fall afternoon, just barely warm in sunlight and a little chilly in shade, clear blue sky, the leaves just starting to turn colors. At the library, the line to check in to vote ran by the new books shelf, and there were two I'd been wanting to get my hands on, so I grabbed them. And now I'm utterly exhausted from the walking. I must be out of shape. Or else still tired from the past couple of weeks. And guess what? I have to leave town again on Friday. I've got an event in Tyler on Saturday. I thought about driving over on Saturday morning, so I'd at least get Friday night at home, but I'd worry about feeling rushed on Saturday, and I need to spend some quality time with the parents, anyway.

But next week? I may not leave the house.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Brief Report

I've had Internet access this whole weekend, but was barely in my room during waking hours, so I didn't have time to catch up and post anything. Even now, I'm so tired and drained, I'm not sure I can give any kind of coherent report. So, here's an incoherent attempt at a report.

In general, I had a lot of fun, met a lot of interesting people and learned a lot at World Fantasy Convention. I'm feeling rather illiterate in my genre (well, one of them). I read a lot, but I still hadn't read many of the books that were being discussed. I kept running into authors I'd heard of but hadn't read. I guess there are so many books that no one person could truly have read everything you're "supposed" to have read in this one genre, and since I read so widely, I spend only a fraction of my reading time on fantasy, as much as I love it. Needless to say, I'm coming home with quite the reading list.

I haven't been crazy about doing readings in the past. It feels a bit weird to read my own work. But after this weekend, sign me up! I was part of a group reading, so we each just read about ten minutes, which was less intimidating than having a slot to myself. I guess I must not have been too bad, because I kept running into people later who immediately went to buy the book. They even ran out at the bookseller in the dealer's room. I sold out of all the copies of Enchanted, Inc. I brought to the autographing session, and people were even checking nearby bookstores. So, yeah, I guess I ought to find more opportunities to read my work wherever I can find an audience.

Meanwhile, I got to catch up with some friends from my college days. I also overcame my fangirl dork nerves and managed to introduce myself to Charles deLint and thank him for that great review he gave me.

And now I'm going to return to vegging out in front of the TV with my stash of snacks to rest up for the drive home tomorrow.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Girlfriends Cyber Circuit Presents Laurie Stolarz

Before I head to Austin (and, as usual, I'm running behind schedule), I've got a new visit on the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit. Laurie Stolarz is a young adult novelist who has a couple of things out now. Bleed is a book of linked short stories, and then there's The Blue is for Nightmares Collection, a boxed set of her paranormal series. Appropriately for this week, she hails from Salem, Massachusetts (cue spooky music).

I asked her some questions:

How do you plot a group of interconnected short stories? Did you have any kind of big-picture plan for how they all wove together, or did it come together organically as you wrote each story?
I became fascinated by the idea of chance and coincidence, and how the outcome of our decisions can influence each other's lives, often unintentionally. The decision of whether or not to pick up the phone or let the machine get it; the decision of walking to someone's house versus taking the bus; or of taking a walk by a cemetery rather than at the beach -- how the outcome of those decisions can have a domino effect, affecting other people's lives...even the lives of people we may not even know.

The book takes place over the course of a single day. During that day, the lives of ten teenagers intersect in powerful and unexpected ways. Among them are Nicole, whose decision to betray her best friend will shock everyone, most of all herself; Kelly, who meets the convicted felon she's been writing to for years; and Maria, whose definition of a true friend is someone who will cut her. Derik discovers his usual good looks and charm won't help him get the girl he really wants, while Joy, a fifteen-year-old waitress, hoping for true intimacy, narrowly escapes a very dark fate.

I wove these tales together by examining this idea of chance and coincidence -- by looking at the possible outcomes of each character's decisions.

How do you research teenage life and emotions so that you can convey them so accurately?
Honestly, I watch a lot of TV for teens. I try to tap into their world as much as possible, also reading their books, their magazines, visiting their public blogs. I'm fascinated by teen culture and this helps me keep current on what's important to them, how they speak, what they can relate to, etc.

What kind of influence did growing up in Salem, with all its spooky reputation, have on your subject matter and themes?
It's weird because when you grow up in a place that's touristy and/or historical in some way -- at least for me -- you don't really become fazed by it at all. I didn't appreciate Salem and its history until much later in life. There were witches that I went to school with, but it was really no big deal. It wasn't particularly "special" or different. I walked by the Witch Museum every day without a thought. I also used to cut through the place where they hung the witches (the Gallows) on my way home from school.

I think being open to religion in general -- Wicca, Witchcraft, Folk Magick, or otherwise -- is the biggest influence Salem has had on me. Now, I'm fascinated by Salem's history. When I was writing Blue is for Nightmares, the first book in the series, I went back to my Salem roots, almost like a tourist, and really did a lot of research on the history and what Wicca is today.

And maybe you can answer this question that's bugged me ever since I visited Salem a few years ago: If the tragedy of the Salem witch trials was that it was all a hoax/hysteria and personal vendetta and there weren't any real witches being put on trial, why is the city now so linked to witches and witchcraft? (It's like "Hey! Look at all the witches!" even though the history is that there weren't any, and that's sort of the point of The Crucible and all that.) And that question really has nothing to do with anything. The curiosity just struck me again when reading the annual travel section article on Salem at Halloween this weekend, and you're the first person from Salem I've had contact with this week.)
Well, there was one real witch, Tituba (who practiced folk magick). I visited the grounds where she lived (in Danvers now). It was fascinating. The house is gone, but the foundation impression is still there. I was chatting with a witch about this very topic -- why witches find themselves back in Salem despite the history (being falsely accused) -- and she told me that it's because Salem is a place that truly accepts and appreciates the religion, regardless of whether or not you practice Witchcraft or Wicca. She, too, admitted that it was sort of ironic. But there's a real pulse in Salem, walking down Charter or Essex streets, being so close to the history, remembering what happened.

I know that Laurie Cabot wears her robes daily so that she can be a visual reminder that Wicca is real and that we have the freedom to practice what we wish. I think witches are attracted by what Salem has to offer in terms of its many covens and support systems -- and with so many alike minds.

With the publication of the box set, are you now finished with the Stacey series, or do you have future plans for her or her world?
Good question. I love my four books in the series. They each have a place and, while I'd love to continue, I don't want to just tack another one on. I'm very intrigued by the idea of continuing, but the book has to have purpose and place. I've brainstormed a number of ideas but haven't found the right one yet. I'm also considering doing a spin-off with some new characters and old favorites. This would allow me to continue, but to do it in a new and interesting way to keep things fresh

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

And now I must finish packing and hit the road. I'm taking the laptop, and the hotel says it has Internet access but doesn't specify that it's free. I'm cheap and poor, so if it's one of those "pay $10/day" things, I won't be online much. If I can get online, I'll try to post reports. My main goal is to meet Charles deLint and speak to him without getting all weepy when I think of that fabulous review he gave Enchanted, Inc. I'm reading his Widdershins right now. I get the impression from his writing that he must be an interesting person. I bet he's a musician, too. Music always plays such a strong role in his books. The Infamous Red Stilettos are making the trip and will make their appearance at the Saturday night banquet. I'll be participating in the Friday autographing, but I still have no idea what the set-up for that is, if there will be places to buy books to get them signed or if you're just supposed to bring your own, or if authors are supposed to bring books to sell. I'll have a few books with me to sell, but I'd prefer that if you aren't bringing books from home and want to buy books there, you buy them from a dealer in the dealers room during the day and then bring them to the signing (Edge Books almost always has a good supply, and they're great folks, so drop by and see them).

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Six months from now ...

I just realized that six months from today, Damsel Under Stress comes out. That seems a long time from now, but I have a feeling it will be here before I'm ready.

Today's been my favorite kind of fall day -- cool and brisk, with steely gray skies that make indoor lights look warm and inviting. I was out running errands, and I found myself wanting to visit every store in the strip mall because they all had this golden glow to them (I'm sure they do that on purpose). Now the sun has come out, just in time for a sunset. I can see the first couple of gold leaves on the trees outside my window.

I'm gearing up for yet another trip, this time to Austin for the World Fantasy Convention. It's good that I've made all these goodies and am giving myself things to look forward to. Otherwise, I might have had to be dragged out the door. I feel like I just got home, and now it's time to leave again. It will be almost two weeks until I get to spend an entire week at home. I made a fun mix tape today for the road (as my car is old enough to still have a cassette deck and I'm one of the five people in America without an iPod), just randomly putting on all the songs I really like that make me think there has to be a story in there somewhere. I especially enjoyed putting a Barry Manilow song on right after a Queensryche song, just for the oddity. When I say "mix" tape, I really mean it.

Someone from my old working life called me this morning to offer me a freelance gig, and I turned it down. That felt kind of good, for a number of reasons. For one thing, it was nice to be successful enough that I don't need the money. But it also made me realize I'd come a long way toward being the person I want to be, and I didn't want to step back into that old life. It would have required being the exact opposite of my true personality, and just thinking of it made me feel stressed. Once upon a time, I might have thought it sounded like fun, but I can't dredge up that part of me anymore. I did feel a bit guilty because it sounded like they were really counting on me and that they'd already promoted the idea of me to their client, but I got over it. The date they wanted fell on a day I was planning to take as a vacation day, and I have a couple of deadlines for other little projects coming up that will pay more and be a lot more fun to do. I haven't officially announced them yet, but let's just say that I've managed to turn still more of my hobbies and obsessions into "work," and some of you might recognize the subject matter for one of the projects. It involves a pet theory of mine I've been expounding upon for years, and now I get to fully develop it and write about it at length, 3,000 words worth.

I think I've officially reached the point where I can't stand the condition of my house anymore. Unfortunately, it's at a time when I don't have time to deal with it. I may do some tidying tonight so I don't cringe too horribly when I get home from Austin, and then I'll have to get busy doing some real cleaning and organizing when I get home.