Thursday, September 27, 2007

The High Ground

My copy edits are now pretty much done. I just have to print some things and get it all shipped out, and I think I'll do that Monday. Today I have to finish writing an article and get all packed to leave town tomorrow.

I think I'm catching up on rest after the crazy week I've had, but the ragweed levels are "very high," which doesn't help much with the thinking and being alert, no matter how much rest I've had.

The copy edits were pretty easy. I must be getting good at this because the editor didn't seem to catch me in any major errors, and she only changed a few things that weren't style issues. Most of the changes were of the sort where there are multiple correct ways to do a compound word -- two separate words, a hyphen, or run them together -- and the publisher goes with the first version given in a particular dictionary. Then this editor, who is now my indentured copy editor for life (I wonder if I can request her at other publishers, since she is a freelancer -- I do have her contact info), is also a fan of my books as a reader and asks some good questions about things she wants to see more of or understand better, and that takes some minor rewriting. That's the part I did last night.

I still plan to play the martyr card to the hilt and make sure everyone knows that even though I got the edits later than I was supposed to, during a very busy time for me, I still managed to meet my deadline. I like having the high ground.

I'm very excited that The Office is back tonight. My plan is to have everything done by then so I can just sit and relax as I watch, and then I can go to bed, since I have to get up really early for my flight. And that means I ought to start packing.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Excused from Work

Apologies for the silence yesterday, but I kind of reached the state where I couldn't string together coherent groups of words. Besides, the judge gave me a note excusing me from work. I think that meant I was excused from work while on the jury, but since I am the boss, I could take it however I wanted, so I excused myself from work for the rest of the day (I did giggle a bit at being given a note to take to my boss -- maybe I should send it with my copy edits if I don't meet that original deadline). Yesterday ended up being quite a busy day. I sent someone to jail that morning, then stopped by the import shop to buy some accessories for the Browncoat Ball, got home, had lunch and was on the verge of collapse when I got some potentially very good news that left me wired while also tired, so that a nap was out of the question. I mostly just read magazines since my brain was shot, then watched TV in the evening and went to bed early. I guess it was my post-convention collapse combined with an added post-jury collapse. It's quite understandable to be so tired after five days of emotional exhaustion and being around people, but now I have a ton of work that must get done today, and I'm still tired.

Now that the trial is over, I'm allowed to talk about the case. I'll keep it kind of vague, since by "talk about it" I suspect the judge was thinking more in terms of talk to family and friends rather than blog about it to hundreds. It was kind of a disturbing case, not because of what actually happened but because of all the things surrounding it. It was a domestic assault case, and so many things about it highlighted what a problem that is in our society. First of all, during the jury selection process, the prosecutor pointed out the legal definition of assault, that it involves causing bodily harm, which could be something as minor as causing pain -- something like a slap that might not leave bruises or marks. I was surprised by the number of people (mostly men, but a few women) who said that even though that was what the law was, they didn't think they could convict someone for a slap (it was a misdemeanor case, so it's not like we were sending them to the gallows for a slap). It got those people out of serving on the jury, and then the case turned out to be much more than that, as there were photos of all the bruises, welts and red marks. Those were horrifying, but I still think I was more horrified by the number of people who thought that a husband slapping his wife was no big deal and that it was extreme to punish him for it.

Then there was the question during jury selection about what we'd think if the victim recanted. When they re-did the family violence laws in Texas, they changed things so that it's the state that presses charges, not the victim. The main reason is that so many abuse victims do recant and want charges dropped, either because that's the cycle they're in -- get knocked around, get mad enough to call the cops, then the abuser apologizes and she regrets calling the cops and drops the charges, and then it happens again -- or else because the abuser intimidates the victim into dropping charges. The way it is now, if you call the cops, then it's in the system and there's no changing your mind. That also means that it isn't the victim's "fault" if charges are pressed (not that this will stop abusers from blaming their victims). A lot of people on the panel said they couldn't convict if the victim recanted. I thought it was pretty widely known that this is incredibly common in domestic abuse cases, but these people seemed to think that if the victim changed her mind, the abuse couldn't have been real (or else they didn't want on the jury and were just saying things). Again, the actual case turned out to be very different because there were other witnesses, a tape of a 911 call, a statement in the victim's handwriting, the photographs, and the victim never said her husband didn't do it, just that she no longer remembered what happened.

As a jury, we were in absolute agreement that there was no doubt whatsoever that the guy was guilty, and our main motivation for wanting to make sure something was done wasn't any kind of vengeance or vindictiveness. We were really worried that this couple was stuck in that kind of cycle, that if he got away with it this time, he'd do it again, and maybe do worse, or that the children might be involved. Unfortunately, we couldn't mandate counseling (he'd rejected a plea deal that involved mandatory counseling). The whole thing was just very, very sad. I so wanted to take that young woman aside and stage an intervention, to tell her she didn't have to put up with that kind of treatment, that someone who really loved her wouldn't do that to her. We got to talk to the attorneys afterward, and even the defense attorney said he'd had to do the best he could with what he had (I did nearly have a hugely inappropriate giggle fit during his closing statement when I had a sudden, vivid image of Richard Gere tapdancing in the movie Chicago), but he knew the guy had done it, if maybe not quite in the way it came out in the trial. I guess I'll add this family to my list of things to pray for, because they need help.

My first jury experience was a miserable one, mostly because of the other jurors. We ended in a hung jury. But this was a good group of people who were all reasonable and conscientious, and I didn't mind being locked in a room with them (I minded being locked in a room, period, but it wasn't so bad with these people). There is a certain psychology at work in this kind of situation, where you find yourself bonding pretty deeply with complete strangers thrown together at random, and then you all go your separate ways afterward. This may have gone some way toward curing my post-traumatic stress from that earlier experience. Still, the trial process is very difficult for me because it goes contrary to the way I think and make decisions. I score pretty high on the "N" part of the Myers-Briggs test. I may try to make pro/con lists and look at things rationally, but I almost always go with my gut impulse or that funny feeling when making a decision. I go with what feels right to me. That may be why big decisions are easier for me than minor ones. I struggle to order in a restaurant because ultimately it doesn't really matter what I order, so the gut instinct doesn't need to kick in. On big decisions, intuition works. I knew this would be my house the moment I walked in the door. I knew the agent I approached was the right one for me, so I didn't even contact anyone else. Fortunately, in this case, my intuition matched the facts and the law, so I wasn't having to struggle with knowing he was guilty while some minor, nit-picky bit of legal wrangling meant we shouldn't be able to convict. That's when my head explodes.

And now I'd better get all that work done.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Report from Juror No. 2005

I must have been a very bad girl, or y'all failed me with the finger crossing, because I ended up on a jury and have to go back tomorrow. I guess it's better than it could have been since the big trial starting today was for an extreme (and highly publicized) case of animal cruelty (some lowlife scumsucker set a dog on fire) and I didn't end up on that panel (it would have been nice to get to hang the lowlife scumsucker, but I suspect the trial would have been very traumatic for me). Plus, the people on my jury all seem pretty cool and quite intelligent, so deliberations may not suck. That's about all we have left to do, so I may not be stuck there for long. I may even have got more work done by doing the jury duty thing than if I'd been at home because there was a lot of sitting around and waiting. I've already made it through reviewing the copy edits on the whole manuscript. All I need to do now is fix the things that require a little more writing than I could do in the manuscript margins.

It's entirely possible that I might even meet the original deadline, and then the record will have to show that I am awesome. I learned well from Scotty: Talk a lot about how difficult it will be to do something, how long it will take to do, and how much you'll have to sacrifice to get it done, and then when it takes you half as long as you estimated, you look like a genius and they assume you killed yourself to get it done that quickly.

In other news, FenCon was a blast. I don't have a lot to report, but I did get some ideas for future posts based on panels I was on, where I came up with the brilliant thing I should have said several hours later. I can say those things here. I didn't get a chance to interview Connie Willis, but the answer about her next book was "don't ask." And that was said up front in the opening ceremonies, so I take it she gets asked pretty often. Serenity Found is now out and you may start to find copies in bookstores. Nathan Fillion's essay is awesome. Some of the others aren't too bad, if I say so myself. For those at Television Without Pity who've enjoyed Jacob's recaps of Battlestar Galactica, Doctor Who and Serenity (the movie), he has an essay in there, too.

I'll be posting late again tomorrow, whenever I get home, but then I'll be allowed to talk about my case (and there is definitely a rant brewing there). Right now, we're not supposed to talk about it, and the judge even asked us not to watch law or trial type shows on TV tonight (Law and Order, and the like). I was thinking, "Dude, tonight's the season premiere of Heroes, and then BBC America should have the new Torchwood up at OnDemand, so that's totally not a problem." Considering the fact that this judge's jury deliberation room is decorated with Star Wars posters and those maps of planets from National Geographic, I have a feeling he's right there with me.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Copy Edits and Jury Duty: Fun! (not)

So, those copy edits I was waiting on all week that were supposed to be here Monday or Tuesday? I got them today. That's today before I spend three days at a convention, then have jury duty on Monday, then will be in Philadelphia Friday through Sunday. And guess when they're due back in New York? October 2. But that deadline may be extended, since I pretty much told them it wouldn't happen (and since that was the same deadline I was supposed to have when I was getting the copy edits four days ago -- so it's okay for them to be late and I suffer for it? Um, no.). And this is for a book I turned in a year ago. I've reached the point where their delays are not going to become my problem when I've been on time or early for everything that's been in my court. Now watch me meet that October 2 deadline even after all my bitching and moaning because I can't seem to help myself. But at least this time I complained instead of just doing it, and I did point out that it was four days late, and I'd cleared my schedule during this week so I could deal with it before I got busy, so them being late ruined my scheduling.

I wonder if having copy edits due will count for one of those "would being put on a jury be a hardship for you or do you have something going on that would distract you from the trial" questions they sometimes ask. I really, really loathe jury duty. I got put on a jury in my very first time, and it scarred me for life. Not the trial. The other jurors. You really don't want to spend two days locked in a room with a bunch of stupid people who have no concept of logic, and if the people they bring together in the jury pool are truly representative of society, then I really may have to become a recluse. I mean, more of one than I already am. Though, on the up side, I have met some really cool people on jury duty. They're just in a distinct minority. I'm also usually a lot more creeped out by the lawyers than I am by the defendants. Most of those defense attorneys practically have slime oozing out of their pores. Those late-night "I can get you out of any bad situation" TV ads must catch them on a good day because those guys are a lot creepier and slimier in person, especially in the drunk driving cases.

I finished watching the NBC fall previews with the pilot for Journeyman. It was a little slow getting started, but it got better. I like patterns, and it does come together in a pattern. My main complaint is that it's rather humorless. Not that I expect it to be a comedy, but it is a rather wacky situation, the kind you have to laugh at or else you'll go nuts. I will watch more episodes and decide if it makes it onto my list. It's one of those shows where I can tell it's good (quality writing, acting, etc.), but I didn't really enjoy watching it, if that makes any sense. Though I was awfully foggy from ragweed, so I wasn't that into anything when I was watching it.

Putting those pilots up on OnDemand was a pretty smart strategy because it felt like less of a commitment to watch them when I felt like it, so I was willing to try something I wasn't otherwise planning to watch in its usual slot.

I also watched Back to You Wednesday night, mostly because I used to work in TV news and I was bored. That show could make a fun workplace ensemble comedy if we could get rid of or scale back on the two leads and their personal stories. Unfortunately, the show is built around them, and they're the two most annoying, boring characters. I loved the bitter reporter who's always sent off to do pointless live shots in the cold and rain. I remember the meetings back in my TV news days when they'd try to decide on a live shot, since we had to have one in every newscast, and quite often there was absolutely nothing going on that was worth going live. So, just as in this show, we'd have a live shot from the place where things had happened hours ago and where nothing was happening at that time. It would be a better show if the central conflict was between the anchorman and the bitter reporter instead of the lame semi-romantic thing they're doing between the two anchors. I probably won't be watching more of this one unless there's nothing else on. It may be something I catch occasionally when it goes into syndication, if it lasts that long. It's on Fox, so it will either last until it's gasping for life and repeating itself, or it will be killed after four episodes.

And now I'm off to FenCon. I may not be posting Monday until late. Keep your fingers crossed for me on Monday that I don't get put on a jury. I just want to spend an hour or two sitting in the central jury room, working on copy edits, and then get sent home. Even half a day would be okay. More than half an hour (so I don't feel like I wasted my time getting there) but less than a full day so I don't have to drive home in rush hour. If I can just stay in the central jury room, then I'll probably get more work done than I would at home. If I have to go to a courtroom, then I can't work and I have to be in the same space as the lawyers. Shudder.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Touring a Book

I am now re-tired! When I called Wednesday morning, it sounded kind of like they'd forgotten to try to get the tire and said they'd send a courier to another store to get it, and swore they'd have it that afternoon. I called shortly after five when I hadn't heard anything, and they said they just got it. So I went this morning and had it put on (and they called me this morning to say they had it). I also now have groceries (something I'd been putting off while in tireless limbo) and I can't decide what to eat for lunch because I have too many options, for a change.

FenCon kicks off tomorrow, and I'm on a lot of fun panels. Plus, there are a lot of other fun panels. In fact, the Law of Convention Scheduling came into play, in that whenever there's a panel I wanted to hear, it was opposite one I was on. But I want to be on the ones I'm on and would want to hear them even if I wasn't on them, so I guess that just means there are too many good panels for one person to possibly attend. I think they knew I'd be stalking Connie Willis because they always scheduled me opposite her, aside from a panel we're on together and the autograph session we have together. Really, I'm totally over the need to get revenge on her for the time she sort of facilitated me getting together with a guy who turned out to be a total loony.

It was at the Pike's Peak Writers Conference back in 2002. I'd finally worked up the courage to talk to her during her autograph session, and found after I got over the fangirl nerves that we had a lot to talk about and got on pretty well. After the autograph session, we adjourned to the bar, where she bought me orange juice, which seemed to help with my altitude issues. The crowd in the bar grew, and then this guy joined the group, he seemed torn between talking to me and talking to her, and she ended up scooting over so he could sit between us. He and I hit it off, and we ended up sneaking out of the awards ceremony to go to a movie. We exchanged contact info, then a few months later he said he'd be in my area on vacation, and he wanted to see me. We arranged to get together, he came over, we had dinner. We watched a DVD. And then when I was doing the "yawn, it's getting late, it was great to see you" routine, he announced that he'd brought his sleeping bag, and did I mind if he stayed with me. Silly me, I thought he was stopping by while on vacation, but it turned out I was the Holiday Inn (and I got the distinct impression that he'd been hoping the sleeping bag wouldn't be needed, if you know what I mean. He did need it.). And then he spend the weekend criticizing my life (not that he knew anything about it). I kicked him out after two days and then never heard from him again. See why I'm still single?

On a more pleasant Connie Willis note, back in 2000 I took a vacation to England. I was mostly looking for an escape from work, and I caught an incredible airfare sale I couldn't resist. While looking for places to go within England, I settled on Oxford because it was close enough to London for easy access but the lodgings were much more reasonable, and there was a lot I could get to from there. When I got to my guest house, I noticed a sign on the door of my room explaining the ways to get into town (we were on the outskirts) and one of them mentioned going to Iffley, just a short walk down the road, and then following the path along the river back into Oxford. I remembered then that Iffley was where Ned and Verity first ran into each other back in Victorian times at a church in the book To Say Nothing of the Dog. So, I took off walking that way -- and then saw the church. It was right out of the book. From that point, I managed to more or less find my way around according to the descriptions in the book. It might be a sign that I'd read the book too many times that I did this without actually having a copy with me. I managed to catch most of the major settings around Oxford, and then when I was in London, I went out of my way to see the Albert Memorial, which isn't actually in the book, but it is often cited as an example of hideous Victorian design. When I put together my photo album from that trip, I used quotes from the book as captions.

And now I'll share the album with you, via the magic of the LiveJournal scrapbook feature. Some of the locations are my best guesses, or else they're something near where the item in the book was, or are something that's probably newer than Victorian that still seems like it could fit there.
The To Say Nothing of the Dog World Tour, 2000

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Fall TV Preview

I was having a sluggish afternoon while waiting in vain to hear that they had a tire for me, so since the brain wasn't working, I checked out a couple of NBC pilot episodes. Yesterday's viewing while not working included The Bionic Woman and Chuck. Strangely, they managed to be both wildly different yet very similar. Both of them are what I might call "unlikely hero" stories, in which something happens to the main characters -- against their will or choice -- to put them into a situation where they have to rise to the occasion and be heroes.

I wasn't a huge fan of the original Bionic Woman series in the 70s. I saw only a few episodes and have no emotional attachment to it, but I was still a little concerned when I heard that the concept for the remake had Jaime Summers as some ordinary woman who had all the bionic stuff done to her instead of her already being kind of extraordinary. As much as I love unlikely hero stories, there's also the recent example of the Sci Fi Channel's attempt at Flash Gordon, where they made it too mundane to be interesting anymore. There's a fine line between ordinary person forced to be a hero by extraordinary circumstances and ordinary person being dull, no matter how strange the circumstances. It's a bit too early to tell after just the pilot whether this will work, but it wasn't quite as random as I thought it would be. They don't just pull in some random ordinary chick and rebuild her, and it's not even a random accident that sets things in motion. There's a real coherence to the plot, as in everything ties together and there seems to be a reason for what happens. The series premise includes enough intrigue and villains that they don't necessarily have to do the villain/mission/case of the week. I may watch a few episodes to see how the series format ends up shaking out before I give it a yay or nay. It is fun counting all the cast members who've also appeared on Battlestar Galactica. The danger could be that the bad bionic woman is a lot more interesting than the good one. I don't like pulling for the villain, but the heroine kind of needs a good slap or two in the pilot. She has plenty to be upset and angry about later, but she's a bit over the top when they're still at the "we managed to save your life and give you superpowers" stage.

Then we have Chuck, which is a much lighter take on the unlikely hero story. The premise is that a computer nerd ends up with all kinds of classified info in his head after his college roommate (now a spy gone rogue) e-mails him a file he stole. The CIA and NSA need this info, but with his hard drive trashed, the version in his head is all they have. No, it doesn't all make sense, but it is a ton of fun. Chuck is a very likable hero, and the supporting characters are a lot of fun. We even get Adam Baldwin being menacing (and there's something with him at the end that had me laughing out loud for more than a minute -- it's a way I never expected to see Adam Baldwin). My one complaint is that the main female character -- a sort of super spy -- spends way too much time onscreen in her skimpy underwear, to the point it felt gratuitous and kind of cheesy. It made sense when we saw her gearing up and hiding all her weapons as she dressed, but when she's sitting around reading her e-mail in her underwear, I was rolling my eyes. The men may disagree with me, but I really detest blatant pandering like that. She's pretty, smart and totally kicks ass. She doesn't have to moonlight as a Victoria's Secret model. Still, I think this is a show I'll be watching because it's quirky and kind of sweet.

Then later in the evening when I'd given up on procrastinating and was just relaxing (procrastination implies that work might get done eventually), I watched Life. I love Damian Lewis, and the premise sounds interesting -- cop is sentenced to life in prison for a crime he didn't commit, then after twelve years is exonerated, given a huge settlement for wrongful imprisonment, and then goes back to work as a police detective. But in execution, it comes across as "House as a cop." We've got the guy who's a bit of a jerk, who says what he thinks and doesn't care what others think and who seems to have a skewed way of looking at things that gives him special insight for solving problems. Plus, in spite of his antisocial tendencies, his focus on truth and on being able to read people allows him to occasionally connect with people, especially children. Not to mention the fact that we've got British actors playing Americans, but that's practically a requirement in every show this season.

It became a bit of a game to spot the House parallels:
Some of House's grumpiness is explained by the misdiagnosed infarction in his leg that left him in pain.
Some of this guy's grumpiness is explained by the miscarriage of justice that sent him to prison.
House can get away with just about anything because he's so brilliant, and also because there's a bit of a sense of guilt on the part of the hospital for what happened to him.
This guy can get away with just about anything because he's a millionaire and doesn't need the job, but also because of a lingering sense of guilt by the police administration. His brilliance remains to be seen.
House has an odd-couple friendship with a guy who sometimes has to move in with him and sleep on his couch.
This guy has an odd-couple friendship with a white-collar criminal he met in prison who lives in his garage apartment.
House is a drug addict.
Here, they split out the drug addiction to the partner, who's a recovering addict.
House has a sexual-tension-laden relationship with his female boss.
This guy has a sexual-tension-laden relationship with the female attorney who got him out of prison.
House has an odd, non-linear way of looking at things that enables him to have brilliant insights.
It remains to be seen, but I get the feeling this guy will have all kinds of brilliant insights because his time in prison taught him to understand the criminal brain.

This show also strikes me as what I call "kitchen sink" writing, in which, in an effort to try to make a story stronger, the writer just throws lots of stuff (including the kitchen sink) in instead of strengthening the central conflicts. "Wrongfully imprisoned cop goes back on the force and tries to find out who set him up" seems like a pretty strong central conflict to work with, and there are some quirks that come naturally from that, like being a bit culturally and technologically out of touch. But they keep layering on more and more until it's all kind of diluted -- he's also trying to be Zen but struggling because of his quite understandable hostility, he has this weird thing for fruit, he's got a recovering addict partner who may be spying on him, he's got that quirky ex-con friend, etc., etc., etc. It's generally best to pick one or two things and really develop them than to go nuts like that. Still, I think I'll give it a couple more episodes because I love Damian Lewis and because I'm curious to see how the House parallels hold up or develop.

And now, since I still have no tire and no copy edits, I may have to make some phone calls.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Post-Annoyance Stress

I'm still tireless -- in the automotive sense -- because it can never go smooth. Wouldn't you know, they didn't have the tire I needed, so they're having to order it from another store. They'd said they should have it this morning and would call me, but we're rapidly running out of morning. However, they did check all the tires and said the others are okay, so I only have to get one and it won't be as expensive as I feared, and I figure that the others really must be okay if they told me that rather than taking the opportunity to sell me more.

So, now I'm waiting. The annoying thing was that I was supposedly going to get copy edits on Don't Hex With Texas this week, so I'd cleared my schedule. But I don't have them and haven't even had word that they're on their way. That means I don't have much to do, and I could be doing stuff like shopping in preparation for the Browncoat Ball, but I don't like the idea of doing too much driving around on the spare tire.

Yesterday after getting back from the tire shop and after mailing my tax payment (ugh), I pretty much collapsed. I think part of it is ragweed season finally hitting, and spending a fair amount of time on the side of the road near where a lot of ragweed was growing. And some of it may have been a delayed stress reaction that turned me into jelly. I was never overly concerned during the actual tire shred/stuck on side of road part of things. I never had any doubt whatsoever that help would come along and that I'd be okay. After the fact, however, it occurred to me how fortunate I was.

I somehow managed to be in the worst possible place in the middle of nowhere when the tire went bad on me. Here's a fun bit of trivia about roads that parallel railroads out in the part of the country where the railroad came through first before the towns were built. The towns are all seven miles apart. That's because the old steam engines had to stop for water every fourteen miles, so they had a station every seven miles, with one station servicing trains going one way and the next servicing trains going the other way. Towns grew up around the places where the trains stopped, and then the roads were built connecting the towns. I have checked this, and it really does work. Some of the towns have just about dried up and blown away since the age of steam ended, so that all that's left are a cluster of houses and maybe a church, but you'll find that little cluster of settlement at the seven mile mark. For the larger towns that developed their own economies beyond the trains and grew and survived, you have to figure out where the station would have been and measure from there.

Well, I managed to have to pull over five miles outside one of the larger towns and two miles from one of the ghost towns where there's just a few houses, a barbecue joint in a shack in front of one of the houses, and a fireworks stand that's only open around July 4 and Christmas. I was smack in the middle of the longest stretch with no signs of civilization, with the railroad on my side of the road (and therefore no houses) and just open farmland on the other side of the road. I was also midway between my parents' house and home, so that if I'd had to resort to calling my parents for help, it would have taken them an hour to get there, and if I'd called roadside assistance, it would likely have taken an hour for someone to get there from Dallas, unless they had a contractor in one of the nearby small towns. I'm not even sure I had a cell phone signal out there.

On the bright side, no civilization in sight might have been better than being stuck in front of the cement works in one of the small towns I go through, where they had a whole army of weeping angel statues lined up in front (along with bird baths and deer statues). It would have been hard to change a tire without taking my eyes off the creepy angels.

Of course, none of this was a factor as my knight in a shining pickup truck was there in an instant to change the tire for me, but sometimes the awareness of what could have been can really freak you out after the all-clear. As a result, I spent the evening curled up on the sofa, watching the last few episodes of last season of The Office on DVD. I still get tears in my eyes from the end of the season finale, just from that look on Pam's face. Sigh. By the way, I don't know if all cable systems are doing it, but Time-Warner has an NBC preview OnDemand, with the pilot episodes of some of their new series already up. Look under "Entertainment." Since there's not much on this week, I may be watching some of those and deciding in advance what I'm going to actually add to my schedule. They do have a short little "how I spent my summer" thing on The Office, with each of the major characters doing a little interview segment. I wonder if this was made for the promo or if it's taken from the new season.

In other news, FenCon is this weekend. If I get a chance without being intrusive, I may try to interview Connie Willis for a column I do for Fresh Fiction (a book web site/newsletter). Since I know there are some Connie Willis fans here, what would you want to ask her?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Zen Laziness

I took an impromptu trip to the parents' house for the weekend, where I believe I took laziness to zen levels. After my mom and I wigged ourselves out about not blinking on Friday night, we seemed to work very hard not to work at all. I mostly just enjoyed the country setting.

The butterflies were really out in force, and it was fun watching them flit around. Seriously, they were more entertaining than just about anything on TV other than creepy angel statues. There was one particular tree in the yard where they seemed to like to rest, and I found that if I went near that tree and stood very still for a while, they'd come land on me. See, zen laziness, going so still that butterflies thought I was a tree. Later, I sat on the back porch and watched a chameleon change colors, which is sort of the natural version of watching paint dry. It would run around in the grass for a while and turn bright green, then it would run up the side of the house and gradually turn a sort of brickish color, starting with the tip of its tail.

Do I know how to party, or what?

Then I balanced out the peace and quiet with a little adventure on my way home. When I was about an hour away from my parents' house, and still about an hour away from home, one of my tires disintegrated. It didn't go flat. The tread just came off. Fortunately, there wasn't much traffic and I was able to get off to the side of the road with no problems, and then because I was just outside a small East Texas town, I had a pit crew before I even got the spare out of my trunk. Pickup truck chivalry struck again. Two truckloads of young men who were out visiting the homebound members of their church pulled over and changed the tire for me. So now today's task is getting a new tire. I'll have to see how little money I can spend doing so, since I'm planning to trade this car in within about six months, and there's no point in spending a lot of money on it before I do, since it's not like spiffy new tires are going to really raise the trade-in value of a ten-year-old Saturn. And, of course, it would all have to happen right when my quarterly taxes are due. Just in case, I'm checking to see if this was part of a recall because what happened sounds very much like what went on with those Firestone problems a few years ago, and these are Firestone tires.

All in all, I'd rather be sitting around, watching butterflies.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Girlfriends Cyber Circuit Presents Bev Katz Rosenbaum

Before anyone panics, I'm not planning to quit putting chapter breaks in my books. Chapters are an essential part of pacing for me, and I think I'd find writing a book without chapters as exhausting as reading one.

That said, it's Girlfriends Cyber Circuit time, and my guest is Bev Katz Rosenbaum, author of Beyond Cool, the sequel to I Was a Teenage Popsicle. Floe Ryan was frozen for ten years. She was vitrified at sixteen because of a rare disease. Now she’s been thawed back to her normal self, but absolutely everything else has changed. Her little sister’s older than her, her teachers are now holograms (but still annoying), and instead of learning to drive a car, she’s trying to master a hovercar. And just when she starts warming up to this new scene, everything falls apart…

Her boyfriend is giving her the, er, cold shoulder, and worse, Dr. Dixon at the Cryonics Center tells her that people who were frozen are more susceptible to illnesses. The one doctor who can cure this immune system weakness has gone AWOL. Now it’s up to Floe and her brainy friend Sophie to find him. But they’re not the only ones looking for him--and this time, Floe could be iced for good…

Now, the interview:
What inspired you to write this book?
Well, I started thinking about writing YA around the time the whole Ted Williams cryonics brouhaha was happening. I'd wanted a really fresh backdrop for my YA--felt I'd been seeing the same thing over and over--and when my hubby suggested a cryonically preserved, recently thawed teen heroine (talk about the ultimate outsider!), I went Yessss. That book turned out to be I Was a Teenage Popsicle, the precursor to Beyond Cool. I hadn't thought about writing a sequel; my editor suggested it. It was easy to think of a story: after a while, it would be discovered that the 'frozen zombies' had dangerous immune system deficiencies... (Can you believe this is a funny book?)

Describe your creative process.
I'm something between a plotter and a pantser. I do have to have an outline before I begin writing, but it's a minimal kind of outline--one or two points per chapter, representing what I want to accomplish in that chapter, where I want to go. I find if I outline too much, I'm sick of the book before I begin. I need to feel excited and fresh when I write that first draft. Which I write straight through, btw. I never edit as I'm going along. My goal with the first draft is just to get it down.

Do you have any writing habits or rituals?
I'm very much a creature of habit. I work best in the morning, though I usually work until about 3:30 (having started at 8:30 (once my hubby and kids are out of the house). My 'office' is at the back of the kitchen, so yes, lots of coffee is involved--and meal and snack breaks at very precise times!

How much, if anything, do you have in common with your heroine?
I'm pretty sarcastic, like her. (But I wish my comebacks could, well, come as quickly. This is the advantage of being a fictional character, I guess!)

If you were frozen for ten years, how do you think your world would have changed?
Truthfully, I'm not sure kids will have holographic teachers, or that we'll all be driving hovercars! And I certainly hope we won't be wearing unitards... I think the changes will be more subtle. I think there will be massive changes in the area of information technology, for example--think of what's gone on in the past ten years!

Chocolate: dark or milk?
Are you kidding me? Dark chocolate all the way! (More specifically, Lindt dark chocolate thins.)

What are you working on now?
I'm working on a more serious, harder-hitting book for older teens, and another fun, light one for tweens. (These are still top-secret projects!)

Is there anything else you'd like to say about this book or the process of writing it?
Writing Beyond Cool was so much fun--and so easy--because I knew the characters so well already and could just relax and let them go crazy! I hope you all enjoy it as much as I loved writing it!

For more info, visit Bev's web site. Or you can buy the book from Amazon.

I know there are a fair number of Toronto-area folks here, so I'll add that Bev is having a signing/launch party this Sunday (the 16th) at 2:30 at the Yonge-Eglinton Indigo bookstore, so go check it out and tell her Shanna sent you.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Analyzing Creativity

First, I must say that Terry Pratchett is evil. EEEEE-VILLLLL. There are no chapter breaks in his books, which means that when it's past midnight and you know you really need to get to sleep, you can't just tell yourself you'll put the book down at the end of the chapter -- because the end of the chapter never comes! Yeah, there are scene breaks, but it's nearly impossible not to glance at the first line or so of the next scene, and then you want to find out what happens, and next thing you know, it's past one in the morning and you still have a big chunk of book left, so you have to just give up and sleep without reaching a satisfying stopping point. I'm sure that's all part of his evil scheme. People will have to say they can't put his books down, simply because he doesn't leave them a convenient place to do so.

Hmmm, maybe I ought to try that.

As you may have perhaps noticed if you've read here for long, I'm rather fascinated by the creative process. I joke that I'm equally balanced between left and right brain because I've done so much writing with technical content in my old job, but I think I kind of am. I have to be pretty creative to do what I do, but I'm also very analytical. I have to know how things work, and I'm perhaps a bit too fond of taking things apart, metaphorically or physically (I have quite the collection of screwdrivers, socket wrenches and Allen wrenches). So, I love looking at the creative processes of others to see what I can steal learn from them. Where do other writers get their ideas, and how does the initial idea translate to the finished form?

I found something really fun in conjunction with last week's Doctor Who episode (the US Sci Fi Channel airing -- and really, the last two episodes, since it was a two parter). The two-parter was an adaptation of a novel written about the Seventh Doctor, and the BBC web site has it posted as an e-book, along with some pretty extensive notes from the author (who also wrote the episode) on how the novel developed and how it was then translated to a television episode about the Tenth Doctor. Some of the changes were more to do with updating it for the current Doctor, then there were the usual changes that need to be made to move something from prose to a visual medium. And then I think there was also some bit of the chance to revisit something old and fix it in the new version. I like the TV version better, perhaps in part because of the fact that I know those characters, while I'd never seen a Seven episode, and therefore didn't feel quite the same connection. But there's also some structural and thematic things I think worked a lot better in the TV rewrite. If you're interested in exploring it, you can find the e-book and the notes on the adaptation here.

Now I'm curious about seeing how authors have gone about writing the Doctor when he wasn't being human. I'm not quite sure how you'd manage to really capture his point of view in a way that would be coherent and readable, yet straightforward narration seems like it wouldn't be an accurate representation of what it's like to be inside his head. Ten, in particular, doesn't seem to have much in the way of focus or filters in what he says, so imagining the way he thinks would be rather mindboggling. The inside of his head would be very noisy and chaotic, which would result in narrative with thoughts left incomplete and picked up again with no transition pages later, logical leaps, lots of asides and ramblings and really funky use of verb tenses, because when you live your life traveling in time, what really is past, present and future? I picture text that more or less progresses the story with lots of random notes in the margins. It would be fun to play with as a writer, but I couldn't imagine doing a whole novel that way, and yet a more conventional use of narrative would be out of character. If I were to try to write a novel about these characters, I'd probably put it entirely in the viewpoint of the companion character. Or maybe I could do the Doctor in first person, with it set up so that he is consciously telling a story, and therefore might filter a lot out, though still with a lot of digressions and asides. And he'd be an unreliable narrator. You wouldn't know for sure how accurate what he was telling was and what he was leaving out. But normal third-person POV where you're just lurking in his brain and spying on him without him knowing he was part of a story? Fast track to the loony bin. Might be a fun writing exercise, though, if I ever find time for non-profit play.

In the meantime, there is work -- an article and some book revisions.

Oh, and one more thing, if you're in North Texas or able to travel here, I'll be hosting a table yet again at the Buns and Roses Romance Tea for Literacy October 14. It's a fun high tea event with authors and readers, where you get to sit at a table with a favorite author. Plus there's a booksigning. I had a blast last year.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Rambling About Fall

It actually feels almost sort of kind of like fall! I even slept under my comforter last night, for the first time in a while. It's supposed to get a little warmer through the rest of the week, so I doubt summer is entirely over, and sometimes that's even more irritating, when just as you get to the "whee! it's fall!" mindset it turns back into summer. But, still, yesterday I managed to feel a little cool while I was outside and then got almost cold at night. I celebrated the coolness this morning by baking scones and making a pot of tea for breakfast.

Yesterday I enjoyed the lovely weather by going to see Stardust again. I know going to a movie seems like a weird way to deal with a lovely day, but I walked to the theater, which meant I was outdoors more than I might usually be, and it was nice to be able to do so without getting hot and sweaty. Instead of stepping out of the air-conditioned theater and getting hit with hot, humid air, it was cool and refreshing outside. I think I loved the movie even more the second time. It ends with the perfect grace note that makes me happy and leaves the tiniest tear in my eye at the same time. I can't wait for this one to come out on DVD. I have a feeling it will become my cure-for-a-bad-day movie.

While walking home, I got a kind of idea for a book. Well, not really an idea, not in the sense of "I'm going to write a story about this person who does this thing." It was more of a feeling, the sense that I want to write something that generates a particular feeling. There was a flash of imagery to go with the feeling, but it was very fleeting and I can't quite recapture it. It remains stubbornly just out of reach. I think it's going to be something structured along the lines of a Shakespearean comedy, with some mistaken identity and a few romantic polygons until everything gets sorted out properly, and it will be a standalone book instead of a set up for a series, unless maybe it's the kind of series that isn't really connected, where it's a lot of different stories taking place in the same universe, with perhaps some recurring secondary characters. And that's all I've got right now. I've learned not to force these things. It's like when there's something you're trying to remember, like the name of someone who came up in conversation, and you could describe all sorts of things about them, but still drew a blank on their name so that the people you were talking to had no idea who you were talking about. As is so often the case in those situations, it will come to me in the middle of the night when I'm not thinking about it at all, and then it will feel so very obvious that I can't believe I couldn't remember. That will be the time to write the book. In the meantime, I'll shove it back into the Idea Generating Machine to percolate while I do other stuff, like revise/rewrite the current book, write an article and deal with copy edits on the upcoming book.

Jennifer Crusie has been posting about her office clean-up efforts, and I might be inspired. Mine isn't quite as bad as hers was, but it's pretty close. I think that may go on my October agenda, to just try to spend fifteen minutes a day working on my office. The rest of the house is in semi-decent shape. I'd love to have the place all nice for the holiday season so I can relax, enjoy my decorations and maybe even (gasp!) have some friends over. We're heading into my favorite time of year, and for the past several years I've been too busy and stressed to enjoy it. This year, I have no travel plans after the Browncoat Ball at the end of this month, I have no article or essay deadlines after October 1, and I don't currently have a book deadline. If the new book happens to sell, it's already written, so even if there are revisions to do, they're not likely to have an urgent deadline attached to them. And even if they want a sequel, that's not likely to be due for quite a while, so I may have an entire autumn and holiday season without being totally swamped. I haven't done that since 2003.

But first I have to get through the next couple of weeks, when I do have deadlines, and a convention and now jury duty (ugh). So, off to work on an article! Thus ends the rambling for the day.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Book Searches

I ended up neither writing nor reading on my rainy afternoon. I did some updating to my web site. Now, for your convenience, I've compiled all my blog posts on character archetypes and put them on my web site (with some editing so they'll make sense outside the blog context).

I had an absolutely wonderful find at a used bookstore last weekend. As an author, I have a kind of love/hate relationship with used bookstores. On the one hand, I know that books sold there don't count, so the author gets no money and the publisher doesn't see that sale, so it's not taken into consideration as a measure of an author's popularity or profitability for the company, and that means it could kill an author's career if too many people are buying their books used. On the other hand, as an author who isn't wildly successful, I'm poor and have a huge book habit to support. I generally limit my used book purchases to books by dead authors, out-of-print books, or huge bestsellers where the book is already wildly successful before I buy a used copy of it.

But where I really love used bookstores is when I can find a book that's otherwise disappeared off the face of the earth. I'm a big library user, and sometimes when I really love a book I get from the library, I want to own a copy, but then I get frustrated when the book is out of print and I can't buy it. Then it goes on my mental list to check for every time I hit a used bookstore. I've had some success with that over the years. One of my best finds was my favorite book in seventh grade, a World War II spy story published in 1948 that was in my school library in Germany. I kept that book checked out most of the year, re-reading it over and over again because I figured the odds weren't great of me ever finding it again. But then when we moved back to the States, I actually found a paperback copy of it in a used bookstore. I may need to put that one back on my search list, since my copy is disintegrating and it seems like they've done occasional reprints since 1952 (the printing date on that paperback). Then there was The Boyfriend School by Sarah Bird, which I got from the library and loved, only to find out it was out of print. I found a mass market paperback at a used bookstore and actually did a happy dance in the store. Since then, it has been reissued, and now I have a nice trade paperback copy that's even been autographed.

My find this weekend was a book I've been looking for since I was in high school. It was one of the few "normal life" young adult books I really liked. I did read young adult books, but not too many that were about normal teenage life, going to the prom, dating, etc. I was more likely to read historical adventures, fantasy, science fiction or mysteries. If I read books that were just about going to school without something else going on, they would be about British boarding schools. But the summer before I started high school, I decided to mentally prepare myself by reading every teen book I could find that was about high school. I'm not sure why I thought this would help, since I suspect it raised unrealistic expectations, and besides, few of the ones in the library were very current, so they were outdated views of teen life. The one book out of all this reading that really caught my imagination was The Alfred G. Graebner Memorial High School Handbook of Rules and Regulations by Ellen Conford. It had an interesting structure, with each chapter headed by a fragment from the school rule book, and then the chapter showing how that worked in reality (which was usually the opposite of what the rule book laid out). It was very funny, and it wasn't overly focused on who the heroine would date or if she would get a date to the prom. It was more about just dealing with all the wackiness of friends and school bureaucracy.

But I never could find this book in a store or in any library other than the base library at Fort Bliss. I looked off and on over the years, then really went searching for it back in the 90s when I wanted to use a similar structure for a novel. My local library didn't even have it. One of my Silhouette romances, Dateless in Dallas, was somewhat inspired by this book, with each chapter starting with an excerpt from a book about how to meet the perfect match, and then the chapter being about how that actually worked in real life. I've still habitually checked for this book every time I've gone to a used bookstore. And then on Saturday, I found it! There was a bit of squealing in the bookstore, and fortunately the young adult section was tucked off in a corner so I didn't draw too much attention. I was a little worried I'd no longer like it, but I read it Saturday afternoon, and it's still as cute and funny as it was when I first read it. It's a little more dated, as it takes place in the mid-70s, which didn't seem so different when I was reading it in 1982 but which now seems like a lifetime ago.

Now I don't think there's anything urgent on my search list, unless I start looking for a less battered copy of that one book. But I have found a new used bookstore that's worth exploring every so often.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Blaming Mr. Darcy

Ah, it's a lovely rainy day, the kind that makes me want to curl up with a good book or write like a maniac. But as I don't currently have anything to write, I'll have to figure out how to spend the day.

Fortunately, I did seem to get over my reading slump, and it appears to in part have been caused by poor book selection. I managed to grab a couple of tragedies, the kind of books where nothing ends well for anyone, and not even in a triumph-over-tragedy way, and call me shallow, but I like at least a teeny bit of triumph for at least one character. They don't have to walk into the sunset holding hands and in love for all time, but I do like to get the sense that something was accomplished and that any sacrifices made were worthwhile. In these books, after the first few senseless tragedies, I skipped ahead, and after I realized that nothing good would happen, I had to put the books down.

So the next book I dug into was a funny, lighter book that was intended for the previous weekend's Austen-fest, only the library didn't get it to me in time. Austenland by Shannon Hale is the story of a young woman who's let herself get hung up on Mr. Darcy. Then her great aunt dies and leaves her a trip to what's essentially a Jane Austen amusement park -- you spend three weeks totally immersed in a Regency world, wearing the clothes, staying at the manor house, and generally living the life of a Jane Austen character, with costumed actors playing the roles of the various other people and setting up scenarios out of Austen's novels. Our heroine is rather surprised by just how little she gets into the whole thing -- she doesn't want to give up her cell phone, she finds Regency life incredibly boring, and she can never let herself forget that the men courting her are actually actors. But the experience does make her re-evaluate the way she approaches relationships, and she realizes that Mr. Darcy was never the real problem. I really liked this book, I think because the way the heroine approached all this felt very real, and there was a lot of humor, as well as a very nice romantic plot.

But it does seem like there's now a whole "It's all Mr. Darcy's fault" subgenre about women who let themselves get hung up on that one romantic ideal, and they then have to overcome that in order to be able to appreciate the real men they actually know. But really, was Mr. Darcy actually all that? I mean, to the point of not being willing to accept anything less? I think he's an interesting character, and it is fascinating seeing how Lizzie peels back the layers to discover who and what he really is, but it's her discovery that's the real story. Almost everything he does is off-stage. I guess there's also the Colin Firth factor, but while I do think he was the perfect Darcy, and the scene with the wet white shirt is a classic, I don't think that role was Colin Firth at his most appealing. My heart is more likely to flip-flop over the marriage proposal in halting Portuguese in Love, Actually or even the part in Bridget Jones's Diary when Mark Darcy helps salvage Bridget's disastrous attempt at a dinner party. There's one moment during the party when Mark really lets his guard down for the first time and just grins, and that makes me melt.

I've been trying to figure out if I have a Darcy equivalent, some fictional man I've idealized to the point that no real man stands a chance with me, but I can't think of any one man. I have a habit of falling in love with all of them -- almost every book I read, movie I see and TV series I watch, there's at least one person I get a minor crush on. Then I'm horribly fickle because the next thing to come along can totally replace my last obsession. I suppose it's possible that my problem is the cumulative effect of all these heroes over the years, and when you put together every fictional character into one, grand idealized man, then yeah, the real ones don't stand a chance. But I'm also pretty practical in my approach. I'm well aware that while I like these men in the context in which I encounter them, I probably wouldn't want them in my life in reality. Most of them have serious issues or baggage, because a totally emotionally healthy person can make for a pretty boring character, or else they're the kind of men who'd be bored and frustrated in my reality, while their reality isn't a place I'd want to live. The possible exceptions may be the sidekick characters I have a tendency to fall for. Most of them are more or less stable, and while they can deal with the situations their heroic friends are in, I'm not sure they'd mind the chance to live a normal life. Still, I doubt this array of wonderful fictional men is the reason I'm still single. I will admit to being on dates and catching myself thinking that I'd be having more fun at home watching or reading about my latest fave, but that has more to do with the enjoyment of the experience than about me comparing the actual man to the fictional character. And, in some cases, I'd be having more fun sitting at home and watching the Weather Channel.

And that brings me to another rant: Why must there be a reason I'm still single? Why is being single considered a problem that must be solved? Yet I get that question a lot. At least the spin on it seems to have become more favorable. I used to get it with the implication that there was something wrong with me -- that I wasn't getting out enough to meet men, that I was too picky, that I had somehow been ruined by writing romance novels so that I couldn't accept a man who didn't act like a romance hero. Now the implication is more "what is wrong with these men that no one has snapped up a treat like you?" I don't even think that's fair, as it's not as though there are all these men I desperately wished would notice me who couldn't appreciate my charms. Then the really annoying thing is that the male interest I've been getting lately has been of the "I can't believe you're still single, but since you are, hey, maybe you're desperate enough that I stand a chance" variety, or else the "I'm obviously smarter than those other idiot men because I can appreciate what a catch you are." Ugh.

No, the answer to why I'm still single is that I haven't met anyone I would want to spend my life with. Period. I suppose I've known some men who were already married that I think might possibly have been compatible with me, but because I have that filter in my brain that puts married men in a different category, I haven't even considered whether I'd have actual chemistry with them, and I've thought these men were very good fits with their wives, so I don't even have the sense that some other woman has stolen my destined husband. I don't have any men who got away -- men I really liked and wanted to be with who went off in other directions. I just plain haven't met the right person. According to the Myers-Briggs evaluation, I have one of the rarest personality types, which makes it very difficult to find compatible people, and that may have something to do with it. I also don't consider being single a "problem." I'm generally happy with my life, and I'm not willing to give up what I have just to be part of a couple unless I enjoy being with that other person more than I enjoy being alone. The only times I feel the singleness in a bad way are the Noah's Ark kind of events where everyone is invited with the dreaded "and guest" and I have no one to ask, but I know that because of the "and guest" that almost everyone there will have a date and I'll be the lone oddball. (I would like to point out that the "and guest" is a relatively recent development that isn't really proper according to etiquette. If you know someone well enough to invite to an event, you should know if they're part of a couple and invite the other person individually, or if they're married or live together, you address the invitation to both of them. Otherwise, you just invite the single person as his/herself without the implication that they're not good enough on their own that the "and guest" can create. And then there might be more than one single person there, so there's a chance of mingling and meeting people instead of everyone having scrambled to find a date. But then if people actually followed those guidelines, then the entire chick-lit publishing genre would implode more than it already has because there could no longer be all those books about desperately trying to find a date to be the "and guest" at some rival, relative or ex's wedding.)

And now Miss Manners will go make some tea and think of something to write or read.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Nomadic Writing

Yay! The proposal for the new book just went off to my agent, and we will now see if I am totally insane or if I might have something here. I guess those two things aren't necessarily mutually exclusive. Now I have some errandy shopping type things to do for the rest of the day, and then it will be a pizza and Doctor Who kind of evening. I can't believe it's already Friday. This week got strange, with the holiday on Monday and then Wednesday being one of those surreal days when I pretty much went through a whole day before the time I'd usually just be crawling out of bed. I will be taking the weekend off, maybe to do some reading instead of worrying about work. That is, between social engagements, as I actually have weekend plans that take place on the other side of the front door.

My problem is, I've been having trouble getting into books lately. I started two this week and am now amassing quite the stack of books beside my bed with bookmarks stuck at random places where I sort of lost interest. I went to the library yesterday, but the shelves were practically empty. In a way, that's a good thing as they're doing that because the library is moving to its new home at the end of the month. The current library barely holds the bookshelves, with no place really to sit and read or study. The new library is gorgeous (at least, the outside is and the drawings of the inside are) and big, with plenty of lounging space and even a cafe. It's basically a Barnes & Noble, but the books are free! And best of all, it's two blocks from my house! I may start doing some work there when I'm in the brainstorming phase.

One of my many creative quirks is the fact that I seem to do different kinds of work in different places. Brainstorming and plotting generally have to be done in places other than at my desk. If the weather cooperates, I like to do it near water. I did a lot of my brainstorming and character development for Enchanted, Inc. sitting on a riverbank, and I've done some work on the other books on the banks of the canal that runs through my neighborhood. Or I go to bookstore cafes. Once Upon Stilettos was essentially born in a B&N cafe (which is why it's so ironic that B&N doesn't seem to be stocking that book -- they have the first and the latest, but not that one). I've also outlined or brainstormed books on airplanes and on my patio. Generally, it seems to help the process to go somewhere outside my usual work settings.

I used to write almost exclusively at my desk, but that hasn't worked so well ever since I got DSL, since my desk is where the Internet lives. So now I tend to take my laptop to various other places in my house (which is why I don't dare get a wireless router). I'm mostly working on the chaise lounge in my loft these days, but I've been doing revisions on the new book on the sofa in the living room downstairs. The final proofread gets done at my desk because that seems to be my setting for detail-oriented, analytical work.

I generally have to take copy edits elsewhere, mostly to a bookstore cafe, but that's primarily because my desk is such a mess and copy edits involve a lot of paper, so I need to be able to spread out. I have done them sitting on my sofa, though.

With the new library, I may experiment with that as a work setting for some of the process, though probably not something involving the computer, as they have free Wi-Fi, and that defeats some of the purpose of getting away from my desk. It's far too easy to decide to just check my e-mail whenever I get stuck instead of being forced to keep going. I think the main point of my nomadic writing is to keep changing the patterns so my brain is forced to adjust and adapt. I think that helps spur creativity. It's like constantly exposing myself to new things.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

News Briefs

Note to self: When planning to take a nap, and when you really, really need a nap because of having had no sleep the night before, don't drink four cups of tea before the planned naptime if you're really sensitive to caffeine. Because then naptime will become lying awake time, which does no good and only leads to crankiness and grogginess later that requires even more caffeine to resolve, thus creating a vicious circle.

But yesterday morning was such perfect tea weather, it would have been a shame to miss it.

A few news briefs:
Did I mention that Damsel Under Stress would be published in Germany? I can't remember. But I'm sure it's new news that it will be published in Japan. I love the Japanese editions. They're so cute. I have the German cover of Once Upon Stilettos, and it's almost the same as the US cover. Next time I do a web site update, I'll add it.

I'm supposed to be getting copy edits on Don't Hex With Texas in the middle of this month. Once I have all those changes put into my manuscript file, I may start posting a few tantalizing little excerpts to my web site to tide you over. Also, this schedule means I may have the review copies in December or January, and depending on how many of them I can manage to get, I'll then be able to name winners of the Great Blog Campaign (it's hard to name winners when I don't know how many prizes I'll have).

Now I need to come up with some other clever viral marketing stunt for the next book, or between now and the next book, to suck in even more readers and make my publisher really regret certain decisions. Maybe after I'm done with this book proposal, copy edits and an article I need to write, I can jump back on the marketing train and develop new plans for world domination.

My goal is to send a proposal for this new book to my agent tomorrow. That is, if I can come up with a title. Of course, I came up with new ideas for the story last night just before I fell asleep -- after I'd already revised that section. I don't remember all of them, but I figure the good ones will come back to me as I review the relevant parts of the book. Today I get to write a synopsis, which is much easier when the book is written. There should be less "and then some stuff happens to bring about this turning point" handwaving.

In other news, Bookseller Chick is looking for feedback from authors and readers about author blogs -- do author blogs help you discover authors or otherwise influence your book buying? If you feel so inclined, drop by the relevant post and leave a comment.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Airport Taxi Driver

I survived my stint as early morning airport taxi driver, and now my parents are back from Alaska and on their way to their house. A nap may be required before I can get anything done today, as there was next to no sleep last night. There was the lovely neighbor who sits on her balcony, which overlooks my bedroom window, and talks loudly on the phone until midnight, which is usually only mildly irritating, unless I want to sleep before midnight.. And then I'd set up a text message alert with the airline in case they changed something about my parents' flight. I had the cell phone on my nightstand to use as an alarm clock, so it woke me up when I got a message around 2:30 telling me the new arrival time would be 5:50. Then while I was reading that message, I got a new one saying the arrival time would be 6:50. I was just about to re-set my alarm when I had a paranoia attack and went upstairs to check the flight status on the web site. They were giving an arrival time of 5:50, so I left the alarm the same and went back to sleep. I checked again when I got up, and they were still saying 5:50, so I made a cup of tea while I got dressed and took my time getting ready to go. Right around 5:50, I thought I'd check one more time before I left for the airport, and they gave an actual arrival time of 5:41. Yikes! So I ran to the car and hurried to the airport, but it worked out because they'd only just come outside after getting their bags, and that meant I didn't have to circle the airport waiting for them. I still have no idea where that 6:50 message came from, but I checked it again when I was fully awake, and I didn't imagine or dream it. Needless to say, I didn't sleep too well because I was so worried that I'd either be late or be an hour early.

We went out to breakfast, and then hung around at my place until rush hour was over. I may need to up the birthday present level again, since it was raining when I had to go out that early in the morning, and I hate driving in the rain, plus I missed some quality lying in bed and listening to the rain time. But my mom did get me a necklace their tour guide made using antique beads, some from can-can dresses (I guess from during the gold rush) and one big stone that was found after it had been buried for more than 200 years from when some of the natives used the ballast stones from ships as currency. Very cool. Alaska is on my list of places I want to visit, and I even tried to get a job there when I was doing TV news.

But before I can travel, I have to sell some books, so after the nap I will be doing book revisions. I think the first section of the book is fine, so I can get a proposal done pretty quickly. I just have big ideas for revising the middle and end. And I need to come up with a title. Titles are usually either really easy or really hard for me. Sometimes, I have the title first, and I know from the start what it will be. Other times, I struggle and flounder with it. My working title for Enchanted, Inc., which I pretty much just stuck on the book because I couldn't think of anything else, was Magic, Spells, and Illusions, Inc. Once Upon Stilettos was supposed to have been called Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered, and I even turned it in with that title, which I'd had from the start, but then we found out another book with that title was coming out from another publisher around the same time, so we had to scramble to change it. I turned in Damsel Under Stress as "Book 3" with no clue about a title, then that title came to me after I'd done revisions on the book. However, Don't Hex With Texas had that title from the very beginning, from the time I got the idea. This book just demands a clever, witty, fun title, and I can't think of anything.

Of course, at the moment, I can't think, period, with my sleep-deprived state. Nap time!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

After the Holiday

You know you're doing something you love when you're actually eager to get back to work after a holiday weekend. Today I'm going to read the new book straight through so I'll know what I need to fix in revisions. I even kind of cheated yesterday by reading some reference books related to things in the book, but that was the kind of stuff I'd normally read for entertainment, so it doesn't really count as work.

My weekend didn't go entirely as planned because I did get some odd whims. I never did make it to the movies, although two different times I was all dressed and ready to go, and then got to the front door of my house and decided I didn't really want to. I did do a pretty big Doctor Who marathon on Friday night, and I did watch the miniseries of Pride and Prejudice on Saturday and Sunday. I only read one chick lit book, Me and Mr. Darcy by Alexandra Potter.

It's about a New Yorker who, after one disastrous date too many, decides to give up on dating entirely, and instead of worrying about New Year's plans, she books herself on a tour of England for Jane Austen fans. After all, what she's really looking for is a Mr. Darcy, and none of the men she knows in real life come close. When she gets to England, she finds a tour group full of little old women, plus one obnoxious male journalist doing a story on why women are so crazy about Mr. Darcy. Then at one historic site, she runs into a man she at first thinks is a costumed tour guide working in character ... or could he really be Mr. Darcy? Meanwhile, the plot to Pride and Prejudice is playing out in her life. I could kind of relate to this story, as I did give up dating (or, at least, the feeling that I should be dating) several years ago. However, in real life, unlike in any book or movie, the decision to give up dating did not mean that men were suddenly flocking to me. My life didn't actually change much at all, aside from me no longer feeling obligated to accept any set-up my friends offered or to accept any invitations I didn't really want to just to have a date. The Jane Austen tour sounds like something I'd like, although I'm not crazy about big motor coach tours and would be more likely to just buy a guide book and go off on my own. However, I would probably have more fun traveling with a group of old ladies than I would traveling with people my own age. I would recognize the plot of Pride and Prejudice if it happened to me. And Mr. Darcy has never been my favorite Jane Austen hero. He's a great character, but not my type. I'd be more likely to go for Mr. Knightley from Emma. Yes, I would choose the nice-guy, boy-next-door over the dark, brooding type.

Otherwise, I took walks, read reference books and watched A Room With a View, which I think was brought on by reading To Say Nothing of the Dog, since there's a similar setting (in the England parts).

By the way, I've discovered a fun new game to play when watching any British film or TV production: Six Degrees of Harry Potter. Try to connect the cast of whatever you're watching to a Harry Potter film. Most of the time, there seems to be a direct connection, thanks to the fact that Maggie Smith is in almost everything. Unless there's someone I didn't notice or recognize buried in the supporting cast of Pride and Prejudice, there isn't a direct link there, but there are multiple ways to connect through Colin Firth, since he's been in movies with Emma Thompson, Ralph Fiennes and Alan Rickman. With A Room With a View, we had Helena Bonham-Carter and Maggie Smith (of course). With Doctor Who there's David Tennant.

But now I'm back to work. It kind of feels like the start of a school year (and the weather even feels rather Septemberish today).

You know, I still haven't thought of what I want for my birthday from my parents, even though that was nearly a month ago. I'm thinking it should be something very good, since I'm picking my parents up at the airport tomorrow -- and their flight comes in at 5:30 in the morning. Fortunately, I live fifteen minutes away from the airport, and given the amount of time it takes to get off the plane and then get luggage, I can probably set my alarm for 5:30, throw on clothes, and then get to the airport in time to pull up to the curb and pick them up without having to find a parking space.