Wednesday, October 31, 2007

What Scares Me

Happy Halloween! I'm not actually a big Halloween person. For one thing, I'm not a fan of costumes. I like dressing up, but I don't really like pretending to be someone (or something) else. I think I might have identity issues. I'm also incredibly claustrophobic about masks. Then there's the fact that I don't enjoy being scared. I don't find it fun, nor do I get a thrill out of it. I don't like horror movies, haunted houses or even scary amusement park rides. I guess you could call me a Halloweenie. For me, the real holiday is November 1, when all the Halloween chocolate gets marked down to half price (note to self: grocery shopping this week will happen on Thursday).

I have noticed something other than skeletons and headless horsemen lately that scares me. It occurred to me while watching something on the History Channel the other night. What happened to the more "highbrow" TV channels? Remember back in the Dark Ages, about six or seven years ago, when A&E was the network that brought us Pride and Prejudice, Horatio Hornblower, and a bunch of other British literary adaptations? Then there were America's Castles, The Grand Tour, and other shows about historic buildings. They showed the whole Boston Pops July 4 concert. I watched that network all the time. Now what do they show? Dog the Bounty Hunter and Mindfreak. It's no longer on my cable favorites list because there's just no point.

Then there's the History Channel, where the dumbing down is a little more subtle. They do still air stuff about history (though I'm not quite sure how Ice Road Truckers fits into that), but the way they do it has shifted a bit. I remember about six or seven years ago when they did a documentary about Vlad Tepes, the "real" Dracula, and most of it was debunking all the Dracula myths. In history, yeah, he was rather brutal, but he lived in a brutal time, and in that region, he's actually considered a hero for keeping the Turks out of his land. He wasn't really associated with evil until Bram Stoker wrote the book Dracula, and that was pure fiction that wasn't even very well researched. The documentary really got into the truth vs. the fiction that's become part of the Dracula story.

Monday night, they ran a couple of shows about Vlad the Impaler, but they seemed more focused on making the novel Dracula be based on truth. In one, the host breathlessly went into the dungeons of Dracula's castles and talked about being able to feel the pure evil. I had to giggle when he was in one dungeon and started getting all excited about how awful it must have been to be a prisoner there, and how evil Vlad must have been to keep people in places like that. But it was your basic underground room, nothing particularly evil about it. I've actually visited worse dungeons. What did he expect, skylights and balconies? Maybe a hot tub? Then there was a show about some people who are descended from an enemy of Dracula's who were researching their roots. Back in the 60s, they made a trip to one of Dracula's castles, and as they climbed the steep hillside, the older man in the group slipped and fell down the hill and later died of his injuries. The documentary took this as proof that Dracula had cursed this entire family, and his evil was still present in the place. Later, a teenager from this family and a school friend spent a night in the castle, and they reported this unearthly light that approached the castle -- dramatized, of course, in a reenactment with bad special effects. Again, the documentary, with breathless narration, went on to talk about this being proof of the pure evil in this place that was the source of all the Dracula legends.

So, when did the History Channel go from clear-headed reporting of facts to breathless sensationalizing of legends based on fiction written centuries after the fact by someone who'd never actually been to that area? I guess they think audiences would rather have the hype than the real story, just as A&E thinks audiences would rather have Dog the Bounty Hunter than Pride and Prejudice. And I guess that since they are driven by ratings, they must be doing better with their current lineup than they were before, or they wouldn't be sticking with what they've got now, so that means they are right about what people want to watch. And that's what really scares me.

Tonight on the History Channel: Was the story of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde based on truth? You know, it was fascinating when the BBC explored that idea in a fictional drama, but does it belong on the History Channel? I guess history is now to the History Channel as science fiction is to the Sci Fi Channel. Scary.

In other news, I saw the first mock-up of the cover for Don't Hex With Texas today, and it's really cute. I'll post when I have a final version.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Book Report: I Can't Think of a Theme

I haven't done a book report in a while, mostly because I've been obsessively reading Terry Pratchett lately, and I'm pretty much the last to the game there, so there's not much point in reporting on those books, and most of the other books I've read I haven't really liked enough to want to recommend them to others.

But I do have a new release to talk about. Alan Dean Foster's latest Pip and Flinx adventure, Patrimony, comes out today, and I've already read it. In fact, I read it weeks ago. Remember how stressed I was about getting copy edits later than I was expecting, but still having them due on the same date, and that happening to come in the week when I had a convention, jury duty and the Browncoat Ball -- and yet I still got them done in time? Well, I guilted my editor into snagging an advance copy for me as a reward for generally being awesome.

I've been reading this series since I was about nine years old, and now it's winding down (I believe the next book will be the last) and finally answering some of the big questions. I'd describe it as being almost like a science fiction Harry Potter. It's about an orphan with a mysterious (even to him) past and some uncanny abilities he doesn't quite understand. He also has an empathic flying snake as a pet (I don't even like snakes, but I love Pip). The series takes him from the age of about 15 until now when he's in his 20s, and it's mostly about the adventures he has along the way while he tries to track down information on his birth, and especially an explanation for what's going on in his head. Alan's (yes, I'm now on a first-name basis) strength is world building, as he creates some very cool ecosystems and inhabitants on each world Flinx visits. This book's world strikes me as being likely based on Alaska, which was fun to read, as my parents went there in August. Flinx finally has some information on who his father might be, and this information is so important to him that he considers it worth a detour on his mission to stop the Great Void that may swallow the whole galaxy. It's a good adventure yarn in a harsh alien setting, with a few plot twists that are fun for long-term readers of the series. Now I can't wait for the next book, and I hope I can still find some strings to pull to get an early copy.

Then for something entirely different, I found Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity by John Stossel on the New in Non-Fiction shelf at the library. Stossel,a correspondent for 20/20, takes a look at a lot of conventional wisdom, those ideas that are commonly accepted as true -- and especially reported by the media as fact. He looks at things like whether getting cold and wet will give you a cold (false), whether banning DDT saved lives (actually, millions in malaria-stricken areas have died because of the ban), and all those jokes about women drivers (women are statistically much safer drivers than men). Some of it is amusing, but the chapters on public education and lawsuits are rather chilling. He's pretty good at backing up his conclusions with data, but even if you disagree with the conclusions he's drawn from that data, I think that at least reconsidering the things that you think are true is good exercise for the brain. There's also some interesting consumer advice, like tests for purity and blind taste tests of tap water vs. bottled water (you can save a lot of money), taste tests for premium coffee brands (really expensive gourmet coffee tends to score low in blind tests) and how to shop to best take advantage of warehouse clubs (they're not always a money saver if you aren't careful). It's all written in a very conversational, entertaining style and was a pretty quick read.

I also re-read Stardust by Neil Gaiman, and this may be quasi-blasphemy, but I think I like the way the story played out better in the movie. I still love the book, and the writing is gorgeous, but the movie added so many clever little touches that I kind of missed when I re-read the book.

Now I'm back to Terry Pratchett, so it may be a while before I have another book report.

Monday, October 29, 2007

My Glorious Weekend (and Tea Trauma Update)

I had a truly wonderful weekend. I skipped my writing group meeting because I wanted to write more than I wanted to talk about writing, and I actually got something accomplished. Then Sunday I went with some friends to a British car show and to the Japanese festival at the botanical gardens, which was a great way to be outdoors on a glorious fall day. This morning, I went over to the library coffee shop for some brainstorming and discovered that they have a lovely cinnamon tea, and I had a nice chat about tea with the guy working there, who gave me a sample tea bag of white Earl Grey to try at home. I then sat on the patio by the canal to do some brainstorming on what I need to write next before I walked home. Along the way, there was a guy working on his car with the stereo blaring, but instead of the usual rock or rap you tend to hear in cases like that, it was Bollywood music, so it was happy music that enhanced the whole mood of the day. Now I need to sit down and actually get some work done.

Thanks for all the chai input. It did turn out that the previous kind of chai I'd bought was what I wanted (Stash), and I found a box of it when I went out (finally) to get milk. Now I know which store I need to go to when I need it, as my other grocery store didn't have that flavor in that brand, which was why I'd bought the other that wasn't as good. I guess it still tasted good, but it wasn't what I wanted it to be, so I was disappointed. I imagine this other stuff will be fine when I want something mellower. The British import shop where the car show was has the brand they sell at the library, but I may keep that as a library treat because I like the atmosphere there, and if you're going to go out for something, it should be something you don't have at home. I think I may become a regular at the library coffee shop because I like the idea of being a regular somewhere and knowing the staff. I also find it easy to think there, and it's a pleasant walk to get there.

It's funny how everyone else seemed to get caught up in the long skirt issue. Really, that all started just because I was trying to weave description into the story instead of doing a paragraph just describing the character. She's pretty short, and I wanted readers to know that, but I didn't want to just say "she was short." Instead, when she had to borrow clothes to go under cover, I mentioned that the skirt was too long, and then when the person who got the clothes for her apologized, she said she was used to it, and she'd just hem it when she got a chance. I thought that one little bit of dialogue/action did a lot of work, giving some physical description (she's short enough that she's used to having to hem everything), as well as her attitude, since instead of complaining, she thinks of a way to fix it and doesn't expect anyone else to do it for her. But then that detail got stuck in my brain so the long skirt kept bothering me. I think I have the solution for it, and it's a lot more interesting than a scene of her sewing.

I really want to finish the book this week because this is my favorite time of year, and I want to be out enjoying it instead of cooped up indoors, working. Now that I've discovered the botanical gardens, I have another place I can go when I want to be outdoors.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Tea Trauma

I have talked myself out of going to get milk yet again. I think it would be different if I needed something else or had some other errand to run, but a gallon of milk just isn't worth gnawing through the restraints. I have just enough left for tea, and I have to go out tomorrow for something else, anyway, so I decided it could wait. I think one of the downsides of the Call of the Book is a form of agoraphobia. When I get that immersed in my fictional world, the real world is almost jarring, and I find myself wanting to avoid it for the time being.

I did finally get past the rough spot that had me stuck. Once I realized the problem, I felt really, really stupid. I've written more than ten books, so you'd think I'd know better by now, but it's funny the things that strike me as absolutely essential in a first draft that I then later look at and go "huh?" Unfortunately, it's usually my agent asking me what the deal is, so at least I've learned to catch it on my own. In this case, at the midpoint of the book, just after the big event that means my characters are really, truly in trouble, what scene did I write to follow up on that big scene? A character hems her skirt. She's in borrowed clothes that don't fit, and I'd established earlier that the skirt is too long on her and that's been a problem while she's on the run, and the hemming scene does happen after she's just used her sewing kit to patch up a cut to her companion's shirt after he's been injured (they do deal with the injury underneath, too), and the characters did need a chance to catch their breath because it wouldn't be realistic for them to be physically capable of going on without stopping for a while, but still, sewing? Seriously? I guess the thought of that skirt being too long for her really bothered me, and I did find that after I cut that whole sewing scene and wrote something else, the fact that her skirt was too long still nagged at me through the rest of the whole sequence. I kept wanting to stop the action and fix it. I've decided to use that, though, and have the skirt be an ongoing nuisance that she keeps saying she wants to fix but never gets the chance to.

I also decided to shake up some of my more usual habits. I'm normally Miss Linear. I can't bring myself to write scene D until I've written scenes A, B and C, in that order. This book is a little different because there are parallel plot lines that diverge in the second chapter and then converge again near the end, and the book goes back and forth between them. I think that will work for readers, since they only have to wait a few minutes to get back to the other story, and that builds some suspense, especially since each group of characters has different information, some of which applies to the other group, which has no way of knowing about it. But for me writing it, switching back and forth was a problem. I'd just be getting really into one story line, and it would be jarring to reach a point where I needed to switch to the other. So, I'm writing them independently, and then I'll merge them later. I'm working on the A story now, and then I'll go back and fit the B story in where it makes the most sense to break. That allows me to build momentum and also means I know I'm writing a complete story for both instead of relying on the other story to provide action, pacing, humor, or whatever.

Meanwhile, in a semi-unrelated issue (it's marginally related because I drink tea when I write), I'm suffering from tea trauma. I love the spicy chai tea, and while I really like the chai lattes at Starbucks, or more recently, at the library cafe, I also like getting the teabags and making my own with a little less sugar and milk. I'd just bought a box of the Bigelow spiced chai, and I was so disappointed in it. It was so bland, I thought I might have accidentally picked up a box of the vanilla chai, but I didn't. I tried brewing it along with a bag of herbal gingerbread spice tea, and it was still too bland. Maybe I was spoiled by how spicy the chai at the library was last weekend, but that's the taste I'm looking for. Lipton actually made a decent chai teabag, but I haven't found that in a while. Does anyone know of a particularly spicy brand of chai? Is it more or less authentic if it's spicier? There's an Indian grocery pretty close to my house, right next to the library, and if the spicy aspect is more authentic, I might be able to find something there (hmm, I wonder if they also have gallons of milk. That place is so much easier for me to get to than any supermarket). I did find a bag of the last kind of chai I bought in my travel tea kit, so I'll have to try that and see if I still like it or if somehow the taste I think I remember and think I want isn't quite accurate, or if the problem is the brand I just bought. If I like the last brand, then that gives me something other than just milk to buy when I go to the store tomorrow.

And in entirely unrelated news, just because I think this is cool, there was an article in the paper today about a robot car being developed in Austin. They named it Marvin the Land Robot, after Marvin the Paranoid Android in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The really cool thing is, when they entered it in a race, the race number it was randomly assigned was 42. It's a little alarming how much joy that idea brought me.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

TV Update

The book obsession continues, with me not wanting to do much else but work on the book -- I really need milk, and I resent the fact that I'm going to have to make a grocery store trip today (and I think I just talked myself into waiting until tomorrow). But what got really frustrating yesterday was not being able to figure out the scene I was working on. I managed to delete the part I knew was wrong, but then every time I tried brainstorming or thinking about what should happen, I fell asleep. I guess I stayed up too late the night before. I think I have figured out what needs to happen. Maybe the subconscious needed to work and got the conscious brain out of the way.

Now that we're several weeks into the new TV season, my schedule has already changed a bit (though the pull of the book may have something to do with that). I've given up on Heroes and Journeyman on Monday night, and that was actually something of a relief. I read the Heroes recaps, but then I realized I didn't even care to know what happened. I've watched the first couple of episodes of Samantha Who? and while they've been cute and the cast is great, I'm not sure if it can sustain itself as a series. There's such a limited range of things for the chick with amnesia to discover about her past, without going the My Name is Earl route of her discovering individual bad things she has to make up for. I think that premise would make a much better movie because it's tailor-made for the three-act screenplay structure. Act One would establish the amnesia and the fact that she was previously an awful person. The first turning point would be her decision to start over and change her life. Act Two would be about her efforts to change, along with her discoveries about her past, building up to changed relationships with her friends and family and her falling in love with her ex-boyfriend as her new self, while he falls in love with the new her. The second turning point would be her getting her memory back, and Act Three would be about the tug of war between her old self and her new self, with the big question about who would win. The TV series seems like it will be stuck indefinitely in Act Two.

I loved Chuck to start with, but it's growing on me even more. I came for the Adam Baldwin, but the main character is turning out to be someone I also adore.

I've also given up on Bionic Woman. I switched over to a rerun of Mythbusters during a commercial break on the third episode and forgot to switch back. I considered that a bad sign. However, I'm loving Life more and more. It's not quite so much House as a cop as I originally thought, but it does have the main character with an unconventional thought process, which is something I like (as a person with a rather unconventional thought process, myself). I've rhapsodized at great length about Pushing Daisies, and that show is turning out to work as a series. I love the characters, the absurdity, the gorgeous production design and Chuck's fabulous wardrobe. I hadn't realized it before, but it kind of reminds me in places of the book I'm working on (which, I want to remind everyone, I initially wrote in August, before this show came on). One of the main characters in my book was brought up by kooky aunts who didn't get out much (and in the book they're even referred to as "the aunts"), and I also have a character who tends to burst into song as she feels like she's living inside a musical.

I'm still on the fence about Friday Night Lights this season. There are still moments when I remember why I loved it so much last season, but there are also plenty of things that are more typical nighttime soap. I give it a few more weeks before I decide if I really want to watch it going forward. I hate it when the things they do to make a show I love appeal to more people end up making it appeal less to me. I'm also not loving what they're doing on House so far this season. I'm hoping it settles down a bit once they're done with the Survivor routine. Meanwhile, I've gotten hooked on the Spike reruns of Deep Space Nine in the morning, which comes at a good time for doing stuff like reading e-mail and writing blog posts. The downside is that the ads on Spike are highly irritating. They're mostly the TV versions of the kind of messages that land in my spam filter. Still, the show holds up very well, and Captain Sisko totally rules.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Call of the Book

I got more of an aerobic workout yesterday than I bargained for when I took my walk, thanks to yet another idiot dog owner who was walking his rather large dog while carrying the leash, letting the dog run ahead. The dog ran at me when I approached on the walking path, barking, growling and snarling in a very non-friendly way. I'm a little freaked out by that, ever since the time a dog running around while its owner carried the leash attacked and bit me (as the owner was casually calling out, "Don't worry! She doesn't bite!"). Now I tend to anticipate the worst. When the owner finally caught up and put the dog on the leash, I snapped that the dog shouldn't have been off the leash in the first place. The owner said that the dog sensed my fear, and that's why it ran at me like that. That was rather the wrong thing to say to me at the time, I'm afraid. Seriously, it was my fault that his dog ran at me in a threatening way, because I was afraid of a large, unrestrained (and obviously untrained) dog? I really lost it then and let him have it, telling him that I was afraid because I had been attacked by a dog being allowed to run loose while the owner did nothing, and that I should be able to walk on public walking paths without worrying about whether or not a dog running at me would harm me. At least he did say that he was wrong and I was right, and I may have scared him into realizing the potential consequences of his actions, but I'm starting to feel afraid to walk in my neighborhood without carrying a defensive weapon of some kind. It's not stray dogs I have to worry about. It's dogs who are with their owners when the owners don't bother to use the leash they're carrying and who don't have their dogs trained well enough for them to respond to commands -- and often don't even try to do anything about their dogs, claiming that it's okay because the dog's just being friendly, just a puppy, or doesn't bite (which, for obvious reasons backed up by scars, I'm not inclined to believe). And then the owners have the nerve to lecture me about being afraid of their dogs? But if I have a weapon, I'm not sure I wouldn't be more tempted to use it on the stupid owner than on the dog that's attacking me. I love dogs and I hate being afraid of them, but these people are so clueless about their own dogs that it's not safe not to be cautious. Fortunately, I do still have the Voice of Command from working with the very well-trained German shepherd I used to have, and I usually have more control over other people's dogs than they do. At the very least, it usually startles the dog into pausing, even if it hasn't been trained to respond to specific commands. (And in case any of my neighbors are reading this, halfheartedly saying "No! Come back here!" does no good. You have to sound like you really mean it.)

I believe I have now reached the obsessive portion of the writing process, when I not only want to be working on the book, but I want to do it more than I want to do just about anything else. The things I usually use for procrastination no longer hold my interest. I don't even care to check my favorite forums at Television Without Pity. The one thing that's been distracting me is music. For some bizarre reason, I've become weirdly focused on learning the soprano solo in the "Pie Jesu" from John Rutter's Requiem, and since I have it on iTunes on the laptop, I find myself pulling it up to listen to/sing with. And then since I have iTunes on shuffle, another song will come up at random after it plays, and I then find myself playing "music roulette," telling myself that I'll shut off the music and work when it plays a song I don't really want to hear. But then, because I've only loaded music I really like onto the computer, there aren't too many songs on it I don't want to hear.

The musical distraction ended up becoming part of the creative process when I realized that the part I was working on was a major emotional turning point in the story, and I wasn't sure I had a good grasp on what those emotions were. Music often helps with that because if I can find a song that strikes me the way I think a scene should, I can usually then capture that emotion. So, I started listening to songs, trying to find the right one. I'm still not quite there yet, but ruling songs out is helping me hone in on what I want to convey.

I also think I may want to get back into choir. I took about a year off, and I'm getting that bug again. Maybe next week. For now, the pull of the book is stronger.

I've come to the conclusion that I will go ahead and finish this rewrite instead of sending a partial to my agent. I suspect things about the beginning will end up changing. This has the potential to be a great book if I'm patient with it and really develop it instead of feeling rushed. My rewrite process has been to do the copy/paste thing from the initial draft, tweak it, write in new scenes, and then the next day I start by re-reading what I did before and then rewriting it. I usually seem to think of the stuff that needs to be significantly changed overnight and then need to go back to it.

And now the book is calling me, so I must go.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Screen Staring

Wow, when fall hit here, it hit with a vengeance. We went from one day when normal people (as in, not me) were using their air conditioners to a day when normal people (again, not me -- I had my windows open for much of the day) might need the heater. I love the cooler weather, but is a gradual transition too much to ask for? I wouldn't mind so much if I could be sure it would stay in this general range for a while, but I have a feeling we'll have another sudden warmup before long. That almost keeps me from enjoying the cool and surrendering to it because I don't want to be disappointed when it suddenly isn't fall-like anymore. It always seems like I get out the sweaters and get ingredients to make soup, and then it suddenly warms up a lot. But for now, it's the perfect crisp, cool fall day, and I think my exercise for the day will be to take a walk.

I didn't get as much accomplished yesterday as I hoped. I spent a lot of time staring at the screen, and then I ran into the rewrite vs. revise dilemma again. I'd copied over a scene from the first draft, spent some time revising it to fit the second draft, went on, then came back and realized that scene didn't need to be there at all. The problem was, I wasn't sure what needed to go in its place. This book has two parallel plot lines, and I came to the conclusion that one whole plotline needs to be totally revamped. The problem is, I'm not sure what needs to be there. I finally gave up on the screen staring and moved ahead with the other plotline, leaving blanks to fill in. I'll need to do some brainstorming today. I am about halfway through with the book and making decent progress. I keep telling myself when I hit a snag that the idea is to make the book the best it can be. It's not as though I'm on a deadline, but I am impatient because I'd like to get another sale, and I can't do that without something to submit. I'm wavering over whether to send the first 50 pages or so to my agent to get out on the market (and then I'd probably have the whole book in time for anyone who wanted to see it) or whether to just finish the whole thing first. I may send the beginning to my agent later in the week to see what she says and at least get a sense for whether my rewrite is on the right track.

This weekend, I had yet another "meeting my characters" moment. There was a young woman standing ahead of me in the checkout line at the library who looked very much the way I imagine Katie's best friend from back home (you'll meet her in the next book). The really weird thing is, the stack of books she was holding was exactly what my character would be checking out of the library. Spooky.

And now I think I may put on a jacket and take a walk before lunch. That may rev my brain up enough for me to come up with some ideas and get down to work.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Monday Musings

We're at the seesaw weather time of year, which makes life a little more exciting. It got warm over the weekend, with highs getting into the low 90s. When I went to bed last night, it was still in the upper 70s, but still cool enough I didn't need the AC with the window open and ceiling fan on, and with a light nightshirt. Then a front came in overnight, so it was pretty cold when I woke up. I knew the front was coming, but I totally forget to put a bathrobe near my bed, so I was rather reluctant to get out of bed. Now I'm enjoying my first sweatshirt day of the season.

I had a pretty productive work weekend, probably because I turned down the opportunity to do something that would have been a lot of fun. If I down something I really want to do because I need to work, I feel even more motivated because I don't want to have given up the opportunity for nothing. That also works when I use work as an excuse to avoid something I don't really want to do, because I don't want to have lied about it. I owe a lot of my early writing career to the men I wasn't really interested in who asked me out. Saturday morning I did finally make it over to the new library to work, and it was excellent for brainstorming. I did some work in the library itself in a chair by the window, then I moved out to the coffee shop and discovered that their chai lattes are better than Starbucks. They're a bit spicier, which I like. And then I reworked the first hundred or so pages, based on the brainstorming. I kind of wanted to work Sunday, but I stuck to my no-work policy, and now I'm looking forward to getting to work today.

One of my guilty pleasures is that I enjoy media tie-in novels (in other words, professionally written and sanctioned fan fiction). I have stacks of Star Trek books, but I hadn't read anything like that in ages, until this weekend. I ran across one of the Deep Space Nine books that continues the story of the series, and I may be hooked again. It's fun to revisit the characters and see what they can do in the books with an unlimited cast and no need to worry about the special effects budget. Right now, I'm watching one of the DS9 reruns on Spike. It's nice to see Alexander Siddig young and idealistic again, since most of his post-Trek roles have involved him playing world-weary, disillusioned ex-terrorists or anti-terrorists, all of whom get blown up (and was that a huge waste on 24 last season, or what? I was loving the ex-terrorist and counterterrorism agent buddy-cop story, and then they sent the ex-terrorist off and blew him up). Don't tell me if Dr. Bashir gets blown up in one of the later books. I wouldn't mind getting DS9 on DVD, but most of the Trek DVDs are pretty expensive. It might be fun to do an archetype analysis on this cast, but it would be a real challenge because most of them were hiding their true selves or had deep secrets, some of which weren't revealed until well into the series. I'd have to figure out what they were trying to pretend to be and then figure out what they really were. It's also interesting revisiting this show after seeing Battlestar Galactica, since a lot of the writing staff are on both shows. Some of the BSG themes show up in early forms here.

As proof that the nut doesn't far fall from the tree, my parents were out of town over the weekend, and they called me Friday to ask me to tape Stargate Atlantis for them, since they didn't get the Sci Fi Channel where they were. See, I came by my geekiness honestly.

This is going to be a good writing day. This afternoon, I'm trying a new muffin recipe, then making a pot of tea and settling down to see how much work I can get done.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Archetypes and the Doctor

I had a fun little surprise show up in my egotistical Google Alerts. Jane Espenson mentioned me in her blog! (And now that's getting picked up and repeated on various science fiction and Firefly sites.) It's about her blog book tour to support Serenity Found. I interviewed her for a book site, and my interview will be posted in December (don't worry, I'll post a pointer to it). It's a new experience for me to be noticed in any of my fandom obsessions, to the point that someone actually involved in the show knows I exist and mentions me by name. (Now, it would be nice if people who see that go and buy my other books!)

A few weeks ago, there was a question in comments about what archetype I thought the Doctor (as in Doctor Who) represented. Back this summer when I was doing that series of archetype posts (missed them? They're archived here), I said that this was a rare character that fit a lot of the archetypes without it resulting in a diluted, unfocused character. I figured he had a little of all of them, which you'd expect of someone that ancient and complicated. But upon further thought, I don't think that's entirely true, and now that they've finished showing the third season in the US and we're all pretty much at the same point in the series, I thought I'd do a little analysis.

As a disclaimer, I'm primarily familiar with the new version of the series. I only saw it sporadically in the past and don't remember many details, but I have done some reading at various sites and message boards to get more long-term background. I'd be curious to see what people who are more knowledgeable as a whole think about this analysis. As with the previous archetypes posts, I'm basing this on the system laid out in the book The Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes and Heroines.

It's probably easier if I start with the archetypes I don't think show up in the Doctor.

I don't think he's the Chief, the one who wants power and authority. After all, given his knowledge, his abilities and the technology he has available, if he had any desire to be in control, he'd be ruling something. Look how quickly the Master managed to take over England and then the world. The Doctor doesn't like taking orders from others, and he wants people to do what he tells them to, but I think that's more a factor of him knowing that, in most situations, he's the smartest and most experienced person around, so it just makes sense to him that he's the one giving the orders, rather than it is a factor of him needing to be in charge.

I also don't think he's a Bad Boy, the one motivated by rebellion. My impression based on my reading is that he was always a bit of a rebel among his people, but I really don't feel like rebellion is what drives him. He's not against authority or the status quo in general, only when there's a problem with the status quo or authority, when something needs to be fixed. What looks like rebellion in him seems to be more a kind of intellectual curiosity and a thirst for adventure and novelty. He also doesn't have the kind of chip on his shoulder that tends to come with the Bad Boy. Instead, no matter how bad the situation is, he manages to maintain a cheery optimism and hope.

And he's not a Charmer. He can be charming, but not deliberately as a way of making things go more easily for himself, as you find with a true Charmer. Instead, his charm seems more unconscious and stems from his zeal for life. He's generally a bit too honest, blunt and outspoken to be a true Charmer. He has moments of outright rudeness, and a real Charmer is never rude. And, let's face it, a Charmer wouldn't be traveling with young women who fancy him without taking advantage of that. Instead, he was mostly oblivious (or at least pretended to be) about Martha's big crush on him.

I'm not entirely sure about the Best Friend. That's a hard one to judge in a character with other archetypes at work because it's such a neutral archetype that if there's anything else going on, that overshadows it (right now, I can't think of a single example of a character who's a Best Friend layered with any other type). He does seem to interact on a Best Friend level with many of his companions. He seems much more comfortable in the friend zone than when anything else comes into the mix, and he's a loyal enough friend that he still would like to be friends with the Master, even after everything that's happened. There's that whole thing about liking to make people better, which is very Best Friend-like. But then he also has a nasty habit of leaving former companions behind without a thought, which is not Best-Friend like.

So, what is he? I think the initial character seems to have been established as the Professor, and that's still very prominent. He's driven by a hunger for knowledge and intellectual curiosity, as well as a need to be right. He takes great pleasure in being the smartest person in the room, but also enjoys finding things he doesn't know about because that means there's something new for him to learn. He also has some of the emotional detachment and poor social skills that go with the Professor.

Somewhere along the way (possibly when he got involved with UNIT?) he's added an element of the Warrior, the man on the mission. He's acting in Warrior mode when he defends the earth and mankind from alien threats, or when he's defending and protecting anyone in need. The man the Daleks call The Gathering Storm would definitely be a Warrior, and "It. Is. Defended!" is very much something a Warrior would say.

There's also a strong element of the Swashbuckler at work -- with the love of adventure and a playful, trickster-like nature. Combined with the intellectual curiosity of the Professor, this love for novelty and adventure makes for a potentially dangerous combination that's probably responsible for a lot of the trouble he gets into. This side of the character was quite dominant in the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) and is pretty strong in the current one, but it was still there on a more subtle, impish level with the Ninth Doctor (like swapping Jack's gun for a banana).

In the recent revival of the series, the Lost Soul has really become a major part of the character, coming in the aftermath of the destruction of Gallifrey. He's now utterly alone in the universe, the last of his kind, and he feels that very strongly. He can find people to associate with, but he knows he'll have to leave them behind. He's caught in that no-win situation: either make friends, only to watch them die, or remain detached. For now, he's tried to find a third way out, trying to keep people at a slight distance and move on before he gets too close. The last two seasons, especially, have been all about loss, saying good-bye over and over again.

Now, this kind of character is a unique occasion, and I wouldn't recommend trying to create a character who embodies all these archetypes unless you've got a similarly odd situation -- someone very ancient and complex who's lived enough "lives" to have amassed more than the usual inner drives and who is supposed to be difficult to really figure out (another one that probably works like this, though I haven't tried analyzing it yet, would be Dax on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine). They're pretty smart at how they're handling this on Doctor Who, focusing on the archetype that's most applicable for the specific story or moment, and it takes some really brilliant acting to carry it off.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Unconventional Wisdom

Since I shared a writing tip yesterday that kind of went against conventional wisdom, I thought I'd share some more unconventional wisdom, but this time focused more on the business end of writing. From hanging out with my agent and her agent and editor friends at conferences, I've gleaned a number of insights that go counter to what you might expect.

1) Writing-related activities aren't necessarily the key to breaking in.
I heartily endorse the idea of belonging to a writing group or organization, reading books about writing, and staying on top of the industry by reading blogs and web sites about the publishing world. That's how you can learn a lot about the craft and business of writing and better position yourself for success. But never forget that talking about writing or reading about writing does not equal writing. If you're going to go anywhere in this business, you have to actually write something. When you're off at conferences or meetings, you're not writing. When you're reading blogs or books, you're not writing. Find a balance, and don't let yourself think that all this work about writing counts as writing time.

2) Selling your first book is not like getting a first job.
When you're going for that first job and don't have a lot of experience, it makes sense to fill out your resume with related activities. The really gung-ho college students get involved in a variety of professional organizations, run for offices in other groups, do internships and apply for awards and scholarships so they'll have impressive resumes in spite of their lack of formal job experience. And, speaking as someone who used to hire entry-level people back in my corporate life, all that activity does count for something. It demonstrates a willingness to work hard as well as some experience doing the kinds of tasks they might have to do on the job.

The writing world doesn't work that way, but a lot of aspiring writers act like they're going after that first job. If they don't have publication credits to put in a cover letter, they try to make up for it with writing-related activities. They join writing organizations, run for office, and take on volunteer jobs in those groups. But the truth is, editors and agents don't really care. Membership in a writing organization does indicate a degree of seriousness about the business and that the manuscript likely isn't written in yellow crayon on paper torn out of a spiral notebook. Beyond that, though, it makes no difference if you've been president of your RWA chapter or organized a conference. The benefit you might get out of doing those things is the contacts you might make. You might get to know editors and agents through organizing conferences and workshops, and that might help your manuscript avoid the slush pile. It's still all about the book, though. If the book isn't what they want, all the volunteer work in the world won't change that. Leave that off your cover letter and focus on pitching your book.

3) Don't get caught up in the contest quest.
RWA chapters may put out a hit on me for this, since contests are a major fundraiser for them, but manuscript contests really are not the best path toward publication. They're great for getting some feedback on a manuscript, and some of the bigger, more prestigious contests do have some credibility with editors and agents, but in general, contests won't get you published. I've noticed that in all the contest results that are announced, very few of even the winning manuscripts are requested by editors and agents. In those editor and agent conversations I've sat in on, they generally say that they pick winners because they have to, but none of them are really things they want. If they do find something they want to see more of, it's something they would have requested anyway if it had been sent in through normal channels, and they suspect that the preliminary judging in most contests doesn't necessarily select the manuscripts they'd be most likely to want. It's really hard to standardize something that's based primarily on personal taste, so the contests create score sheets to quantify various aspects of a book. But going by that kind of form tends to penalize uniqueness or anything that doesn't meet usual expectations -- and it's uniqueness and going against expectations that editors and agents are generally looking for. When they do request a manuscript through a contest, they often find that the first chapter or three (the parts entered in contests) are polished to perfection, but the quality of the rest of the manuscript drops off sharply after that. That's if the book is even finished and ready to submit. In a lot of cases, even when the agents or editors request the whole book after judging the contest, they never get it because the author never finished it. I've known some people who got so caught up in the contest whirlwind that they forgot about actually finishing and submitting books to people who could get them published. All they did was polish contest entries, and their signature lines on loop posts listed all the awards they'd won -- but they still hadn't sold a book.

Now, here's the part that will really sound crazy: Having a long list of contest wins on your cover letter can actually count against you in the eyes of an editor or agent. Here's why: If you've won that many contests judged by editors and agents and yet you still haven't sold a book and still don't have an agent, that suggests that none of those editors and agents who've judged your books have wanted them. That's a red flag. It's even worse if a single book has won a lot of contests without selling or being signed by an agent. That gives agents and editors the impression that the rest of the book doesn't hold up to the promise in the part judged by the contest. And it means that the book has essentially been shopped around, as a number of editors have read at least a part of it without buying it. Agents usually don't want to take on a book that's already been seen by a lot of editors (unless there's an offer on the table).

Disclaimer here, before I get slammed by people who've won a lot of contests: This is the way some agents and editors say they perceive the situation. I'm not saying that if you've won a lot of contests and still don't have an agent or still haven't sold that your book sucks. I'm just saying this is how some editors and agents say they interpret query letters mentioning a long list of contest wins. If they still like the premise, they may ask to take a look, but they're a bit skeptical about it.

Bottom line: If an editor or agent requests a book through a contest, it's a book they would have requested if submitted through normal channels. One or two contest wins indicates that you might have something good going on. Half a dozen or more without publication or landing an agent suggests that you can write a great contest entry but not necessarily a great book. A contest can fast-track you past the slush pile to a read, and that can be helpful when you're dealing with a publisher that won't look at unagented work. Just remember that you have to get past the first-round judge before you get to the editor, and the first-round judge probably isn't looking for the same things the editor is. This is all probably a bigger problem in romance than in other genres because there are a lot more manuscript contests for novels. Short story contests are an entirely different issue, and credits there, as well as magazine publication, can help.

Also, beware of contests sponsored by publishers. There again, if they like it enough to publish it through a contest, they'll probably like it enough to publish it if it's submitted the normal way, and part of entering the contest usually involves agreeing ahead of time to the terms of the publishing contract you'll get if you win. If the book is that good, an agent could probably get a much better deal for you as a regular submission. I do know of some big-name authors who've broken in through publishing contests, but at least one has been pretty vocal about how stupid she was to agree to those terms and how she felt she got ripped off in the long run. There is some prestige associated with winning a contest like that, and the promotion you get as a contest winner may outweigh the downsides to the more restrictive contract, but know what you're getting into and don't let yourself think that this is the only way to make it.

In fact, I would bet that the majority of novelists break in the old-fashioned way: they write a great book, then a great query letter that intrigues an editor or agent, who then asks to see the book. They don't necessarily have contacts, and they didn't find some secret shortcut through belonging to the right club or winning the right award.

And now I'm going to see if my still-aching legs will carry me to the post office.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Revising vs. Rewriting

Thanks for all the car input. I'm forcing to put a moratorium on the research because it's become a huge time sink (seriously, I virtually "built" about three cars yesterday). Oh, and when I referred to my friend Mr. Consumer Reports, I wasn't anthropomorphizing the magazine. I do have a friend who is essentially Consumer Reports magazine with legs. He gets his greatest joy in life out of researching that kind of stuff. I used to feel like I was taking advantage of him when I asked for his input on a purchase and made him do all the research, but then I learned that this really was his hobby, and it truly made him happy to do it, so now I gladly fling questions at him. He just sent me a detailed, step-by-step strategy for negotiating a car purchase, including scripted dialogue. Now I'll let my subconscious get to work on that while I work on the book. If I'm at home working, I don't really need a car.

This draft is turning out to be much more of a rewrite than a revision. A few years ago (well, 2002), I went to a session on revision at a writing conference. I was expecting the usual stuff about eliminating unnecessary scenes and looking for wasted words. Instead, the speaker said that the way to do the second draft was to finish the first draft, put it aside without looking at it, and then write the book all over again from scratch.

I'm pretty sure I wasn't the only one in the room who broke out in a cold sweat or nearly fainted at the thought. All that work on the first draft -- and then do it again? What about all those carefully crafted sentences and sparkling dialogue you'd already written? Couldn't you save any of that? That guy (I think it was a man -- I was so traumatized that I can't picture the speaker) had to be kidding. His argument was that you work out the plot and characters and figure out where the book is going in the first draft, and then when you write it again, you'll remember the good stuff that deserves to be in the book. You'll also already know what needs to happen, so there will be less meandering. You might even find yourself combining scenes or skipping over less important scenes. If you're just fiddling with the draft you've already written, you'll be too close to the work, too tied to the words already on the page to do the kind of hacking and slashing you really need to do to make the book the best it can be. It may even be faster, he said, to rewrite from scratch than to try to work with the existing book. If there was anything worth salvaging from the first draft, then you dealt with that on the third draft, when you compared the two drafts and chose the best of both versions to go in the final book.

I, quite frankly, thought he was insane. But now I think I'm getting his point. I'm having to significantly change this book on the rewrite. There's a totally different opening and set up, and a lot of the story is told in first-person narrative in the form of journal entries, which I'm now changing to regular third-person narrative. On the scenes that aren't so drastically changing, I thought I could still salvage parts of the first draft, so I was doing some copying and pasting, then tinkering. I had one scene I thought I could lift pretty well from the first draft, but then when I reread it in the new context, I realized it needed to be changed a lot. I ended up spending a lot more time trying to rework that scene than it would have taken me to just write a new scene without worrying about what I already had. Then yesterday, there was another scene that I thought would take just some copying and pasting and then editing, but as I fell asleep last night, I realized that the scene doesn't even need to be there. If I hadn't been trying too hard to follow the original book, I probably wouldn't have thought to write it at all.

I still think there's a lot in the first draft I can keep, certain scenes that really stand out in my mind -- but then again, if they stand out that much, then I should be able to write them again. I don't know. I'm still not entirely convinced. Now, I do have another book that I wrote about ten years ago, where I still like the story and the characters but I know my writing skills then weren't what they are now, and it would be pointless to try to "fix" that draft, so it will be better if I just start over instead of revising. But it feels very different to totally rewrite a ten-year-old book than it does to rewrite one I just finished.

In other news, I'm making yet another attempt to get in shape. I had the sad realization recently that I can't really fit into most of my nice slacks. I can zip them, but they don't feel or fit right. But this is also my favorite eating time of year. That means exercise. I did a workout video they had on OnDemand last night, and it must have been a good one because I can currently feel every muscle in my body (ouch). Today I think I'll do some walking and yoga to try to loosen up, and then I'll try it again tomorrow because it seems to be working. I keep telling myself that if I want to do all the baking I like to do at this time of year, I have to get some exercise every day.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Finding My Car Identity

Since that movie option means I'll have some money coming in next year, I've decided that I can afford to buy a new car, and I've started the preliminary research about that. My problem is that I'm not entirely sure what I want. Or else I know what I want, but am not sure what is really best. In some cases, I'm getting conflicting input about what is best. I'm also conflicted by the fact that I don't really want a new car. I love my current car. It has exactly what I want in it, no more and no less. But it is old, ten years and more than 100,000 miles. I'm sure it could last a lot longer. The trouble is, I don't really trust it anymore. It's at the age that when things go wrong, they tend to go really wrong and without much warning, and that's happened to me twice so far this year, not counting the tire shredding, which has little to do with the age of the car. With me being alone, with as much cross-country driving as I do when I'm in book promo mode and with this being my only means of transportation, it's not a great idea for me to have a car that might leave me stranded on the side of the road somewhere. I do have friends I could call in a crisis, but my friends have lives, and I don't think it's a good idea to base my car decisions on whether a friend would be around to come to the rescue when my car breaks down somewhere and leaves me stranded on the side of the road.

Oddly enough, the shredded tire seems to be the thing that's wigged me out the most and made me be reluctant to drive much, even though that's the easiest thing to fix and has nothing to do with how much life is left in the car. You'd think the smoke coming out from under the hood in the middle of a traffic jam would have been scarier. The tire has made me totally paranoid, though, and it doesn't help that a lot of the roads around here are bad enough that they kind of make the car feel like it did when the tire first started to go. Even if I check all the tires before I leave the house, I spend the whole trip feeling like my tires are about to go. I could resolve that issue by just buying all new tires for peace of mind, but why put that kind of money into a car I really need to be trading in? As poor/cheap as I am, if I had new tires I'd probably try to keep this car another year or two, and then I'd end up stranded on the side of the road for some other reason.

Since I am poor/cheap and want the cheapest reasonably safe and reliable car that you don't have to put quarters in to make go, one of my friends, who I shall call Mr. Consumer Reports, has said I'd be better off getting a "newer" car instead of a new one. You take the biggest depreciation hit the moment you drive the car off the lot, so why not let some other sap take that hit? You can get a good certified used car, one of those rental or lease returns, that's only a year or so old and that has low mileage, and that decreases your cost of ownership. That sounds good, except the one time I've had a used car, it was evil. When I got it, it was only a couple of years old and in mint condition, and it broke down on alternate Wednesdays while I owned it and left me stranded too many times to count. I only had it three years, and by the time I pretty much pushed it to a dealership to trade it in, I'd replaced just about everything in it twice. It especially liked to eat alternators, fuel pumps and clutches. I don't know if it was a lemon or if the previous owner horribly abused it, but I'm suspicious of cars that have been driven by someone other than me. My current car has been the most reliable I've had, and it was literally wrapped in plastic when I bought it. I don't know if that's meaningful or true cause/effect, and I guess all those certified programs now mean I'd be less likely to get an abused car, but I'm not seeing a huge difference in price. Because most cars like that are rental/lease cars, they're more tricked out, with lots of features I don't necessarily want, so they're more expensive in the first place. The used cars with lots of features are about the same price as the brand-new cars equipped only with what I want. On the other hand, having a car that's already been used some does diminish the new car paranoia, where I spend the first six or so months of owning a car in sheer terror that I'm going to wreck it or have it damaged in some way.

My other dilemma is the manual vs. automatic transmission issue. I've been driving a stick shift since I got my first car when I was in college, and I love it. I feel very uncomfortable driving automatics now. I'm sure I'd get used to it after a while, but I like feeling more in control. Also, with a smaller car, you get more acceleration power when you really need it with a stick. If I need to get into traffic fast, I can drop into third and floor it, and you can't really do that with an automatic. However, if I keep this new car as long as I did my current one, I'll be well into middle age before I trade it in, and I have very bad knees. It's possible that there will be more times in the not-so-distant future that stomping the clutch might be painful. I don't do a lot of creeping-along-in-rush-hour city driving that makes the manual a real pain, though. I guess the dilemma is that I really prefer a manual, but I feel like I should get an automatic.

Then there's the fact that we're currently on the model year cusp. I could probably get a great deal on the 07s, but then I'd be taking the dregs of what's on the lot rather than getting what I want. In some cases, the 08s aren't even available yet.

Really, I'd prefer to just wave a magic wand and take ten years off my current car so I could keep it. Saturn doesn't even make anything remotely like it anymore. I have an SL, and the Ion, from what I've heard, wasn't all that great. Now they don't even have that. For 08, the equivalent car is a relabeled Opel. It's not even a Saturn. Saturn seems to have totally lost their brand identity. I am such a Saturn kind of person, at least, the way they used to be. Now that they've abandoned me, I have to figure out what else fits me, and that's a strangely disturbing psychological process to go through. If I were a car, what would I be? How do I see myself? How much of that is what I think I should want vs. what I really want? I've never really invested too much of my ego in what I drive, but it's still a big enough purchase that it deserves some thought. So, anyone have any recommendations or warnings about small/cheap cars?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Back to Writer Mode

I am now fully back in "writer" mode after peeling off my "author" veneer yesterday evening. The tea was a lot of fun, and there were even people there who came specifically to see me, which was very flattering. I'm afraid, though, that they may now be aware of just how insane I really am, since I had one of my patented helpless giggle fits in the middle of the keynote speech. Fortunately, the speech was funny, so everyone else was laughing. I just wasn't laughing at the speech. I was cracking up at a mental image inspired by something said during the speech that actually had absolutely nothing to do with the speech. Trying to explain the reason behind the giggle fit doesn't help because it is truly insane (let's just say it involves one of the last animals you'd expect to find a were version of, and just thinking about it now cracked me up again). At least the fact that it came during a funny speech make it not be an inappropriate helpless giggle fit. The worst in that category came when I was on the jury and I suddenly pictured the defense attorney in a scene from the musical Chicago. I think I sprained something fighting back that laughter.

Now, though, I really have to get to work on this book. I spent all last week procrastinating, but I think my subconscious was working on it. The opening scene of a book is tricky at the best of times, but this one is particularly challenging because of what I'm trying to do with it. There's a lot of stuff going on, and I'm trying to make it all flow together with the right timing. It's like mentally choreographing a massive production number in a musical, or maybe one of those long, complex tracking shots Joss Whedon is so fond of. But those are all visual, and I'm trying to get the same effect in text so that what readers picture is like one of those things. I even resorted to digging out DVDs to watch and see how I'd describe what they have on the screen.

But I think I might have it. I'm sure it will take lots of work to fine-tune it, but I at least know how it starts now. And it's a perfect writing day -- cool and rainy. It's definitely the kind of day that makes me very grateful that I work at home, since during rush hour this morning there was a massive storm. I will likely spend the day guzzling tea and writing, and then I don't have to cook because I have a ton of leftovers from stuff I've already cooked and from a restaurant meal this weekend.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Vacation Dreaming

This weekend I have my last public author appearance of the year (unless something comes up), and then I can go into full-on writer mode. I enjoy the public stuff, but it is a little draining, and it's nice to go back to being a hermit. Earlier this year I was daydreaming about a hypothetical vacation I wanted to take when all my "author" work for the year was done. I'd realized that I hadn't taken a real vacation in years. Almost all of my travel has been work-related, and the few trips I've taken that weren't directly for work were still for events where I had to stick to a schedule and didn't get much relaxing time. I'm also bad about not relaxing on vacation because I go into explorer mode and wear myself out trying to see and do too much. I thought it would be nice to take a real vacation where I go to a place that has some stuff to see and do, but not so much that I go crazy trying to do it all, and stay in a reasonably nice hotel where I can also spend time relaxing in my room. When I travel, since I usually just use the hotel room to sleep in and spend the days out and about, I tend to stay at no-frills places, so this would be a switch. I even came up with an elaborate way of setting a budget with a points reward system for things like writing, exercise and selling stuff.

I'd planned to take this vacation in October, since that's my favorite time of year. Well, since I have that book to work on, that's not gonna happen. I also don't have a huge budget. I could afford maybe two nights in a nice hotel if I went somewhere in driving distance (not that I trust my car for road trips right now) or a place where I could use short-hop frequent flier miles, and then have some money for eating, entertainment, etc. I'm also not particularly keen on travel right now, after spending the summer on the road, and I don't mind spending the next month at home, working.

But I think I will need a vacation after that. Borrowing from source material from the medical school I do freelance writing for, according to a psychologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center, taking a vacation is important for creativity. You need to empty your mind in order to have room to refill it. And according to a psychiatrist/neurologist at the same medical center, to get the full effect of a vacation, you need to take a long enough vacation. It may take several days of unwinding even to get into vacation mode. See, medical justification! I guess I could take a trip sometime in November or December. It's still fall in this part of the world then, and who knows, I might even have a new car at that point. In December, I could do something Christmassy. And I'd have a little more in the budget.

On the other hand, since I am kind of tired of travel, I'm thinking of doing an at-home vacation, using part of my budget to upgrade my featherbed and buy nice pillows, sheets and towels to get the hotel experience, and then play tourist in my general area, going exploring and doing some of those things I've been saying I wanted to do but never got around to. According to those same doctors, the key to getting the vacation effect without leaving town is to shake up the normal routine. I could go touring some days, then play spa day at home on other days.

I'm leaning toward the at-home option -- and there was a really nice featherbed on clearance at Linens and Things, with only one left that would fit my bed. I'm seriously tempted to go back there now and get it. Then to play hotel for vacation, I could put the old one on my sofa and pretend to be watching TV from a hotel bed.

Of course, before I can take any vacation at all, I need to get to work on this book.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Advanced Procrastination Methods

As a follow-up to my TV post, I had been a little worried about how Pushing Daisies would work as a series, but after the second episode, I love it even more. There were more "heart growing several sizes" moments, plus the tough PI who knits to relieve stress and makes cozies for his guns -- and his money! -- and then they actually gave Kristin Chenowith a musical number -- duetting and dancing with a dog! How can you not love that? Now I want to knit a money cozy. After I knit a Dalek (I saw a pattern online and now must try even though the only thing I can really knit is scarves).

Argh. The stupid dogs next door have just started yapping again. I know the other neighbor was going to talk to the management company, but I think I'll file a formal complaint, too.

You know how the other day I had all those grand plans about going to the library to work at the canal-side cafe? Hasn't happened yet. This week has been a study in Advanced Procrastination Methods. Tuesday, for whatever reason I got sidetracked by doing online car shopping and research. Then I saw a grocery store ad that had a great special on mushrooms, and suddenly I could think of tons of things I could make with mushrooms to go with ingredients I already had. I needed to go to the grocery store anyway, though not with any urgency, but that was the last day of the mushroom sale, so I went. And then they were totally out of mushrooms. By the time I got home, it was after-school time, and there are a lot of after-school programs at the library for kids, things like homework clubs and tutoring, and I'm sure the cafe will be a big hangout for teens. I don't begrudge that AT ALL. I think those programs are a great use of the library's resources, and I love the idea of kids hanging out at the library. However, that doesn't mean I want to be there trying to work at the same time. So I sat out on my patio and worked some.

Then yesterday I got very sidetracked by the newspaper issue. Something about it just flipped my stubborn switch, and I became bound and determined that I would get my newspaper, come hell or high water. I know there's a new guy on my route because my paper wasn't on my doorstep the day before, and it turned out the papers had been delivered to the wrong place, put in front of the garages instead of in front of the houses (the garages and houses are separate). So when I didn't have a paper yesterday, I put on some clothes and walked over to my garage to check. No paper. The subscriber info printed in every copy of the Dallas Morning News says that same-day replacement for missed delivery is guaranteed if you call before 10. I called at about 8:40 and used the automated system to report a missing paper. It told me a paper would be delivered by 9:45. At 10, I still had no paper, so I called again, and that time got an actual person, who apologized and said a paper would be sent out right away. At 11:10 there was still no paper, so I called again and again got the apology and a promise that it would be there right away. At 12:30 when there was still no paper, I called again, and the customer service rep said they couldn't deliver a paper because it was after their route people had gone home, and they could only re-deliver if you called before ten. I kind of lost it then and said that I had called twice before ten, and the fact that they couldn't do what they guaranteed they would do after three calls was not my problem. He said he'd have the route manager call me to tell me why I hadn't received a paper after multiple calls to report the problem. (I'm still waiting for that call.)

At that point, I gave up and bought a paper at the rack around the corner, only it was missing the Wednesday grocery ad inserts, which were one of the main reasons I wanted that paper (aside from the crossword puzzles). Since I had to buy a paper I'd already paid for, I went to the Dallas Morning News (sticking in search bot fodder in a passive-aggressive way of filing a complaint) online site to request that my account be credited -- and it rejected the request because there was a maximum of three complaints per day. Um, no. Why should I be limited in the number of complaints I can make when they kept giving me assurances that they didn't keep? I will keep complaining until they follow through on their guarantees. So I found the customer feedback form to write out a complaint. Their customer feedback form limits you to 125 characters -- that's characters, not words -- to describe your complaint. I used to think that those "complaint department" posters that had a teeny little box under "write your complaint here, please write legibly" were a joke, but the Dallas Morning News customer service department is using the electronic equivalent (and thus the passive-aggressive blog complaint). I was almost disappointed to get a paper today, since I was looking forward to escalating. I guess that's a lot to go through over a 50-cent newspaper (but I think the weekly grocery ads are worth far more than that), but it's the principle of the thing, plus, as I said, it flipped the stubborn switch. One thing that will really set me off is people who make promises -- even put them in writing -- and then not follow through on them. To really make me mad, don't carry through on your promise and then make it sound like it's my problem when you can't resolve it. I wouldn't have made three complaints that day if they'd done what they'd said they would do -- so why should my next complaint be rejected when the problem was still not resolved? Ugh.

Not that it was a wasted day. During the War of the Newspaper, I also finished up and delivered my radio scripts for the medical school, invoiced the project and dealt with the contract for next year's work. Then I washed sheets, towels and the mattress pad and aired out and fluffed my feather bed. I also put together the party favors for my table at this weekend's fundraising tea and trimmed back the scary alien vines that keep trying to invade my patio. By the time I'd walked to and from the post office to mail some bills, it was again the after-school rush time, so I worked at home instead of heading for the library. And then when I sat down to work, the opening scene I couldn't figure out suddenly made sense, and I was able to outline it, so I can get to work on those rewrites today (something that really doesn't work well at the library). Maybe my subconscious was distracting me all that time so it could work in peace and figure it all out.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Psycho Next Door

It's past 11 in the morning and I still don't have my morning newspaper. This is after three calls to customer service. I like to read my paper while I eat breakfast, but when I didn't have a paper when I got up and they said they'd get me one within an hour, I thought I'd read it with my mid-morning cup of tea. There was still no paper. And then I didn't have one in the hour they told me they'd get it to me then. Now I'm hoping I get one in time for lunch. I would suspect that my psycho neighbors stole it, but I seriously doubt they were up early enough to snag it before I got to it, and I also seriously doubt they'd bother with a newspaper for anything other than to line the cat box.

I got to learn all about these particular people in a particularly juicy over-the-back-fence (well, my front porch) gossip session with another neighbor in the middle of the night last night. It turns out I've been in the middle of a crazy soap opera and had no idea.

I already knew I kind of hated these people when they very quickly racked up three strikes against them. The guy was out with one of their dogs and when the dog ran at me, barking and snarling, instead of saying "no!" or "stay!" or in any way making any move to restrain the dog, he just said, "He doesn't bite." Based on some rather painful personal experience, I'm not inclined to trust that because it seems like dogs the owners let run amok with no restraint or discipline are probably more likely to bite. So whenever a dog runs barking and snarling at me and the owner just casually says, "Don't worry, he won't bite," I anticipate that very soon the dog's teeth will be sunk into my leg. So that's strike one. Then soon after these people moved in, dog waste started appearing on my front lawn. There are common areas that are okay for dogs to be walked on, with front lawns off-limits, and even then you're supposed to clean up after them, so that's doubly bad. Strike two. And then it turned out they had two dogs, and they bark constantly when the people aren't home, day in and day out, all night and day. Yap yap yap yap yap yap yap yap. It's so loud I can hear it in my office, upstairs and at the back of my house, as far as I can go from these people's house. Meanwhile, their house faces my bedroom, so it's really loud in there. Not only is it incredibly annoying, but I worry about the dogs because a dog that barks constantly like that is not a happy dog. It's either lonely, bored, scared or uncomfortable. Strike three. That's not even getting into the trail of cigarette butts these people leave down the sidewalk and in the lawn, or the fact that they tend to sit out on their patio to smoke and talk loudly (again, facing my bedroom window) in the middle of the night. The smell of their smoke is so strong that if I have my office window open (again, in the back of the house and facing away from them), I'll end up checking around my house to make sure nothing's on fire.

So, last night, the barking was even worse, and had gone on for hours. It was getting close to 11 at night, and I knew I wouldn't be getting any sleep. In frustration, I stepped outside to bellow "shut up!" just as another neighbor was coming out to bang on their door, so we ended up chatting. It turns out that the current occupant is the daughter of the woman who lived there before. That woman had been trying to sell the house, but then her daughter got kicked out of college for smoking pot, so she just moved in there with her weird loser boyfriend. I'd thought that the woman who lived there before seemed nice, in my few interactions with her, but I didn't know the whole story. Apparently, the daughter is bi-polar and doesn't take her medication (with the interaction I've had with her, I'm not sure if she's truly got a mental illness or is just a brat and the mother was making excuses. According to this other neighbor, the story about what was wrong with the daughter tended to change. There were times she supposedly had a brain tumor, too, and refused to take her medication for that. Um, huh?). At one point, she and her boyfriend attacked and beat up the mother, and there was a restraining order to keep the daughter and boyfriend away from the mother's house, and she told this other neighbor to call the police if she saw the daughter (I am SO glad I didn't know about this at the time). The woman was also something of a crazy cat lady, one of those hoarders. I knew she had a number of cats (including the one who inspired Loony in my books) because I was always seeing different ones in the window, and innocent, dumb me, I thought maybe she was fostering them for a shelter, or something like that. No, she just collected cats and had nine of them at the time she moved out -- and when she moved out, she asked this other neighbor to take them to the Humane Society for her. So basically, she just kept a lot of cats and then was willing to dump them all when she moved. No wonder "Loony" kept ending up on my porch. She was probably asking for help (and if I'd known what was going on, I'd have been tempted to keep her, in spite of my allergies, because I liked that cat).

So, basically, I have a drug-using, psycho bitch of a neighbor who doesn't know how to care for animals. Fortunately, this is a condo community with a management company and a homeowners' association, and in a neighborhood with its own homeowners' association, so we have a little more leverage than if we were just dealing with a regular house. Still, about all the homeowners' association can do is come down on the owner, which is the mother, who let the kid run wild in the first place, to the point she beat her up, so I'm not sure how much good that will do. My other neighbor and I are already plotting ways we might be able to get the legal system or animal control involved (these are cute dogs that would make great pets with some training, so I suspect they'd be better off in a shelter where they might get adopted into a good home than they are with these people). I'm sure there's fodder for a book in here somewhere, and the other neighbor has already asked to be written in as the one who kills the crazy bitch.

Now I think I'll see if I have a newspaper. I may break out in a cold sweat without my daily dose of crossword puzzles.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

My TV Season

So, as promised, here's a rundown of what I'm watching/have watched on TV this season and what I think about it. I'll try to keep things pretty vague to avoid serious plot-point spoilers (for those in foreign markets) and will not include any spoilers for future episodes.


Chuck -- this has been the surprise of the season for me. I watched mostly out of Adam Baldwin loyalty (since he's one of two actors I've had any kind of direct, albeit electronic, communication with where he actually used my name), but it strikes just the right note for me, with the combination of action and humor. Adam Baldwin is in serious danger of running away with the show. His character is like what would happen if Jayne got some education and training, was given a badge and forced to live in civilization. The sight of him in the "Buy More" uniform still cracks me up. It makes me want to go to Best Buy.

Heroes -- I keep feeling like I should love it more than I do. The cast is so big and so spread out, with each person having his/her own, separate story, that not much seems to actually happen in each episode. My problem is that I only care about a few of the characters, so I spend a lot of the episode not paying much attention. But then you really have to pay attention to pick up on all the plot points so I miss a lot. I'd totally watch The Hiro Show, and I might even watch Matt Parkman: Psychic Cop (though I thought his story was more interesting last season). I'm on the verge of giving up due to not caring very much, and I suspect that will give me a great sense of relief.

Journeyman -- I like the patterns that emerge in the lives of the people he's helping (though why does he have to stalk them through their lives before intervening at the crucial point? It seems very inefficient), but again, to paraphrase Spike, I'm paralyzed by not caring very much. It would help if I could feel some connection to the main character or feel like something was at stake. Or maybe even that he deeply cares about what's going on. I suspect that for my patterns and consequences fun, I'll stick with My Name is Earl. This week, I found myself flipping over to Monday Night Football and the channels with early newscasts midway through the episode, so I have a feeling this will be it for me. I can use that slot for watching the latest Torchwood episode to go up on OnDemand (they put Saturday's episode up on Monday).


Bones -- I hadn't watched this before due to scheduling issues, but it's convenient in this slot, and I'm enjoying it. I like the witty banter, and I knew when I saw an earlier episode in reruns that I had to like the main character's partner when he'd actually read his partner's latest book and could discuss it. That's the way to a girl's heart!

House -- I'm a little surprised at how much they shook things up, given that they were at the top of the ratings. Usually, shows resort to this kind of shake-up when they're struggling. I guess I'll wait to see how things work out before I decide whether or not this works for me. I liked the interplay between the old fellows and House, but I'm terribly fickle, so who knows, I may decide I like the new set-up better.


Pushing Daisies -- LOVE!!! I didn't know what to expect, but I loved the pilot. It's so quirky and charming, and the storybook feel is enhanced by the narrator (I don't really like audio books, but now I want to see if my library has any of the Harry Potter audiobooks because I like his narration). You know that bit near the end of How the Grinch Stole Christmas where the Grinch's heart grew several sizes? I swear, that's how I felt during a couple of the moments in this show. I'm curious to see how well it develops as a series. I also love Anna Friel (our designated British actor playing American) and was even inspired to buy Our Mutual Friend on DVD after seeing this episode (she was in that, and that's one of my favorite miniseries ever).

Bionic Woman -- I'm very close to giving up on it. It gets maybe one more episode before I yawn. She's a bit too whiny for my taste, and the domestic subplots drag it down. Must we throw in the bratty kid sister? This was a show I wanted to like, and I just don't care much for it. They're starting up new Mythbusters episodes in that time slot, and that's sounding a lot more fun to me right now.

Life -- I still say it's House as a cop, but I like House, so that works for me. I suspect there is some Damian Lewis halo effect going on -- ever since his iconic portrayal of Dick Winters in Band of Brothers I can't help but like him. I even found myself sympathizing with Soames Forsyte (who was terribly misunderstood -- and I never rationalize on behalf of villains). I like characters who think in unusual ways, so I'm finding this kind of interesting.
(As an aside -- if they need adult actors for the end of the last Harry Potter movie, my vote is for Damian Lewis to be adult Ron. I've seen a picture of him in his late teens/early 20s, and I swear, he looks like he could be Rupert Grint's brother, so it stands to reason that you could imagine Rupert Grint growing up to look something like Damian Lewis does now.)


My Name is Earl -- I love the twists they've thrown in this season, and this continues to be the silliest, yet most profound, thing on TV.

The Office -- I was worried about what would happen with the loss of the will they/won't they angle, but now that I think about it, it doesn't change much of anything because Jim and Pam were always that way at work, and 98 percent of the show takes place at work. It also helps that the model for the show is the "center and eccentrics" or else, as I like to call it, "the only two sane people in a crazy world," so there's still room for lots of conflict between them and all the lunatics around them. Just so long as they don't go for the break up/get back together/we were on a break routine. I'm also worried that Michael is going beyond "how does anyone keep this guy on staff?" territory to "how is he not too stupid to live?" But it's still entertaining.

Supernatural -- It's back! Not much more to say there. We've got the car and the guys, so I'm happy.


Friday Night Lights -- I'm worried here. Last season was this perfect gem of a series, and I'm not sure they can sustain it. It also seems to be heading dangerously close to soap opera territory when before it had been more of a slice-of-life thing -- almost everything that happened was something you believed could, would, and did happen somewhere. Now, not so much. But it still has lovely moments, so I will withhold judgment until I see how it goes.

Moonlight -- I missed the pilot and watched the second episode. It's okay. I don't have a strong feeling for the main character, but I've liked Sophia Myles in the two things I've seen her in (an episode in the first series of Foyle's War -- that, incidentally, David Tennant was also in -- and an episode of Doctor Who). She's quite pretty, but still comes across as very real, and she also manages a mix of warmth and steeliness that works well in this role. I liked in the second episode that her character wasn't too stupid to live and didn't cling stubbornly to the wrong conclusion for too long. The normal chick in a vampire show seldom gets to be smart and capable, so I'm intrigued by the fact that this one is smart and has already saved the hero at least once.

Stargate Atlantis -- I wish they'd saved the other one and canned this one, but it's there, and I'll be watching, I guess. I'm curious to see how it works after the latest shake-ups. This is probably the least I've watched on Sci Fi Friday in ages, but with Doctor Who over for a while there's nothing much in that slot (I may use that slot for Doctor Who DVDs) and Flash Gordon was too boring to believe.

I'm not really watching anything on Saturdays. Sundays I catch The Simpsons, and I guess I'll be watching the occasional Mystery or Masterpiece Theater thing on PBS, or maybe a History Channel documentary if there's one I find interesting.

On BBCAmerica OnDemand, I'm catching up with Coupling. They're torturing me by only putting up a new episode every other week. It took me a while to warm up to this show, but by mid series 2 I was laughing myself silly. I hope they start over from the beginning to see if I find the earlier episodes funnier now that I'm into it more. And then there's Torchwood, which has been really hit-and-miss so far. When it's good, it's very good. When it's bad, it's dreadful. I think it would almost help if it wasn't a "post-watershed" show, because most of the dreadful stuff has pretty much screamed "We have no content restrictions!!! Wheeeee!" so that racy things are just thrown in for no apparent reason. Plus, I'm really hoping this isn't supposed to be some elite squad because they're frequently too stupid to live. I hope they wise up a little bit, otherwise I'd really have to wonder about Jack choosing to go back to that lot instead of traveling with the Doctor. In his shoes, I'd be tempted to just leave them to their own devices. Then again, with that bunch, that could be dangerous to the fate of the planet.

Wow, I sound really jaded. But I'm trying to limit my TV viewing and use that time for reading, writing, doing other stuff, or maybe even watching all the things I have on tape or DVD. And now today I go back to work on rewriting the book. It's brainstorming time, so I may go over to the library to check out the coffee shop patio -- caffeinated beverages and waterside tables should be good for creativity.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Girlfriends Cyber Circuit Presents Jennifer Echols

As much as I say I'd love to spend an entire weekend on the sofa, in practice it's not as much fun as it sounds. The knees got really sore on me, so I tried to stay off my feet for most of the weekend. And wouldn't you know, it was at a time when there wasn't anything I wanted to watch on any of the flavors of HBO and nothing I was really keen about OnDemand. I did have a couple of DVDs I needed to watch for a project I'm working on, and I read. Otherwise, I did get kind of bored. I found myself actually wanting to clean house. It seems that only happens when I'm on a tight deadline or physically incapacitated.

I'm actually semi-mobile today (I'm not in pain anymore, but I'm strangely aware of my knees) and I'm debating whether to run some errands or take one more day of minimal walking. In the meantime, I've got another guest on the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit, Jennifer Echols, author of The Boys Next Door.

Lori has spent every summer on the lake, swimming and wakeboarding with the three boys next door, and working at the boys’ family marina. Lori is close to Adam, the “baby” of the family, who's her age. But secretly, she’s always had a thing for the middle brother, Sean. And this summer, Sean actually seems to be—dare she think it—flirting with her. She figures he’s only being nice because they're like family, since he’s not into younger girls. Until he steals Adam's (even younger) girlfriend.

Lori and Adam team up to get Adam’s girlfriend back, and to get Sean for Lori. But then Lori begins to notice ADAM. He’s grown taller. More mature. And Lori thinks Adam is interested in her, too. And that’s when their ploy finally works. Adam gets his girlfriend back, and Lori gets Sean. The right couples are finally in place, and everything should be smooth sailing. So what’s with all the waves?

Now, the Interview:
What inspired you to write this book?

I grew up on beautiful Lake Martin in Alabama. My older brother and I spent all day playing on the lake, and I fell in love with his hilarious and unattainable friends. So this book is full of sun, fond memories, and longing.

Describe your creative process.
My creative process is the biggest mess you have ever seen. I start by plotting, but along the way I begin writing the book by the seat of my pants without meaning to--a little of chapter 2, a little of chapter 10, the ending, the beginning. When I'm about halfway through the word count, I can't find anything anymore. I have a little nervous breakdown, read through what I've got, and regroup. Once I've adjusted the plot and made some tables and charts, I can write through to the end quite happily. Believe me, I have tried to streamline this process, with no success. I am what I am.

Do you have any writing habits or rituals?
I get up at 4:30 a.m. and write until I've filled my word quota for the day. I make a soundtrack of the book and listen to that on my iPod as I write. LOTS of caffeine is involved.

How much, if anything, do you have in common with your heroine?
Lori, the heroine of THE BOYS NEXT DOOR, is basically me at sixteen. I didn't realize what I'd done until several people told me this. She's a tomboy and a dork, but she means well!

What do you think the appeal of the guy who doesn't seem to notice you exist (or that you're female) is?
THE BOYS NEXT DOOR is all about that problem. I think at heart it's a self-worth problem. If you don't have a well-developed sense of self-worth--like adults going through tough times or transitions, and most teenagers--then you think the guy doesn't notice you because you're not good enough. Luckily, as you grow older or fight through that difficult period in your life, you realize you ARE good enough, and if the guy in question doesn't understand this, he is the Loser.

Chocolate: dark or milk?

What are you working on now?
My teen drama BOY IN BLUE, about a troubled teen sentenced to night patrol with the 19-year-old rookie cop who arrested her, will be published by MTV Books in February 2009. Right now I'm working on what I hope will be the follow-up book, a teen drama called NO PARKING.

Is there anything else you'd like to say about this book or the process of writing it?
If you enjoy sunshine, first love and boy-fights, I hope you'll check out THE BOYS NEXT DOOR!

For more info, check out Jennifer's web site. Or, you can buy the book at Amazon.

Tomorrow I think I'll do my TV season so far post.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Library Love

Thanks for all the congrats on the film deal. I do want to make clear (since I've seen some things pop up in Google alerts that have been posted elsewhere) that this doesn't mean a movie is being made. It's just that a studio has put up the money to put dibs on the right to make a movie. There's a lot that would have to happen before a movie actually got made, and that would likely be at least a couple of years down the line.

In other news, I'm in love. I mentioned a few weeks ago that we were getting a new library branch in our neighborhood that would be like Barnes & Noble, only the books are free. Well, I went to the grand opening this morning, and I have to say that the new branch is better than Barnes & Noble, and the books are free. I'm totally in love.

One of the great things about my neighborhood is that there's a network of canals throughout it, with landscaped walking paths. Unfortunately, most of the businesses built near the canals completely ignore them, just plunking down a building with the windows facing the parking lot and the all-brick rear facing the canal. There's one restaurant with its windows and a patio cafe facing the canal (and it's wildly successful, so you think they'd learn from the example). But now the library is built on the side of the canal, and the architects actually made use of that. The entire rear of the library, which faces the canal, is floor-to-ceiling windows, and that's where all the comfy reading chairs and study tables are. Some of the comfy chairs have little fold-out desks, so you can sit in a comfy chair beside the window and work, when you're not looking out the window at the lovely scenery. There's a little coffee shop attached to the library, and it, too, has windows overlooking the canal, as well as a patio cafe area on the side of the canal. I didn't get a look at their menu, but the lady who runs the shop used to be the pastry chef for the Four Seasons, and the pastries they had for the grand opening refreshments were to die for. The pastries and the location alone beat any nearby Starbucks, since there aren't too many Starbucks with sidewalk cafes overlooking a waterway instead of a street or parking lot. If they have anything resembling a chai latte, I may be in trouble.

Best of all, it's just a couple of blocks from my house, and I can walk there in less than ten minutes. If I want to take the scenic route along the canal paths, it might take me fifteen minutes. I may move in. I was practically swooning at how lovely it was, and I think I'm going to take some work there next week, just to soak up the atmosphere. Oh, and the divider between the children's section and the rest of the library is a wall made to look like a pirate ship!

The one downside is that my neighborhood library doesn't carry any of my books. They need to do something about that. They still don't have as many books as I'd like, in general, but there's plenty of shelf space to expand into. I could see this place becoming a real community gathering spot, since it's right in the middle of the neighborhood in such a lovely location.

And now I have to stay off my feet the rest of the weekend, since my knees are killing me. I don't know if it's the weather (a front came through last night), but the aching kept me awake for much of the night. I probably shouldn't have walked to the library, but I wasn't going to miss the opening. I did try to walk slowly and gently to reduce the pounding. Maybe if I stay on the sofa today and avoid going up and down the stairs I can sleep tonight without a lot of pain. I have books from the library and the Texas vs. Oklahoma game is on this afternoon.