Friday, July 30, 2010

I'm Just Not That Into Him

One downside of getting away from my routines is that my housework falls by the wayside. I seem to need a strict list of chores and tasks that are done on a certain day at a certain time in order to keep up with everything. I may try to catch up with some of that today and this weekend. Meanwhile, I'm almost through the huge stack of reference books I picked up the other day. Some of them were mostly pictures and will require further perusal, but I seem to have really made a dent in the rest. After this batch, I think I'm down to a few more, plus some novels, and most of those I can get at my neighborhood library and via Project Gutenberg (in fact, some of them I can only get via Project Gutenberg because they've been out of print for a century).

While I was digging through reference books yesterday, I found a fun movie on Turner Classic Movies that I'd never heard of. It was a William Powell/Myrna Loy movie called I Love You Again. It's about a former con man who has gone straight -- to an extreme. He's now a teatotaling stuffed shirt who belongs to every civic organization in town and is the ultimate upright citizen. While returning home from a trip, he gets a whack on the head and develops amnesia so that he reverts to his old self and doesn't remember anything at all about his reformed life. A dig through his possessions and papers tells him that he can now pull the ultimate con -- on himself. By sticking with this identity, he can get his own money, con the rest of the town, and then make a break for it. His plan is somewhat complicated when he meets his wife -- who's divorcing him for being such a stuffed shirt. It was a really clever premise with some truly hilarious moments as this con man crook tries to fake his way through being Mr. Upright Citizen and finds that he actually enjoys some of it (like leading a scout troop) while trying to woo his own wife.

I mentioned in my review of the movie He's Just Not That Into You that I had developed my own relationship "rules." I suppose I could try to put these into a book and then see if I could sell it, since I'm at least as qualified as the guy who wrote He's Just Not That Into You to give relationship advice. Unfortunately, I'm not a writer for a hit TV show, so I don't have the same level of "platform" for promoting such a book.

Most of it boils down to having my own life so that I'm not waiting for anyone to call. If I don't hear from someone I've dated within a couple of weeks, then it's pretty much over, depending on the context and circumstances. I can appreciate needing to fall off the face of the earth for a while, but just let me know. Oddly, I don't think I've ever run into the "I'll call you" as a brushoff after a first date. What I'm more likely to have happen is a first date that goes really well, then a second date that we spend discussing things we could do, going as far as to plan the next date down to everything but the specific day/time and logistics, then the farewell being about being in touch soon to set it all up, and then I never hear from him again, not even in response to contact from me. Then there was my last serious boyfriend, who had a bad habit of disappearing for weeks at a time with no warning, though he usually had some kind of excuse when he came back. I should have written him off the first time, since he ultimately vanished for good. If he could vanish for weeks without a word, then he either didn't care whether I'd still be there when he got back, or he was a self-centered, inconsiderate jerk, and either way, why would I want to date him?

It seems like the whole "He's just not that into you" thing was about not dating people who aren't into you. My big realization was that I don't have to date men I'm not into. This sounds like a no-brainer, but I'm basically nice and optimistic, so I would say that the majority of men I've dated were men I wasn't all that interested in. A lot of them were set-ups by people who said things like "you would be great together!" (translation: "you're the only two single people I know, so I have to hook you up") or "you have so much in common!" (translation: "you're both single and breathing"). The initial introduction was generally made in a group or on a double date, which fell totally flat, and then the person doing the set-up would call and say something like, "I don't know what was up with him, he's usually not like that, but I'm sure that now that he's met you, he'd be a lot more fun. Can I give him your number?" And then I'd be hopeful enough to say yes. Or worse, it would be something like, "He just needs a confidence boost, and going out with a great girl like you would be good for him." And then I'd feel guilted into saying yes. Or else someone I knew through an organization or met at some event would ask me out, and even though I wasn't all that interested, I would feel like I should give him a chance.

But then I had a huge epiphany after yet another one of those mercy dates, in which I realized three key things:
1) I've never been pleasantly surprised in one of these situations. No matter how optimistic I try to be, it's never worked out. Whenever I've agreed to go out with someone I wasn't all that interested in, it's been a pretty miserable experience. Worse, it creates additional awkwardness because after I've agreed to go out once, the guy usually assumes then that we're "dating" and I either have to act like a guy and be "busy" until he gets the message or I have to tell him I'm not interested -- doing an actual, official break-up after one date. Most of the time, it turns out my gut instinct was very right, and the guy turns out to be kind of weird, so that he gets pushy and intrusive and starts demanding an accounting of my whereabouts after one date. I figure I've got plenty of evidence that not going out with men I'm not initially into isn't closing myself off to possibilities.
2) It's not my job to boost other people's self-confidence. If I'm such a great girl, then I deserve to go out with someone who's great for me, not someone I'm made to feel obligated to go out with.
3) I'm not doing anyone any favors when I agree to go out with him in spite of my misgivings. If he has self-confidence issues, I'm sure it doesn't help when I go out with him once and then refuse to go out with him again. He deserves to go out with someone who's interested in him just as much as I deserve to go out with someone I'm interested in.

I've realized that when someone asks me out, my reaction is either "Oh boy! Yay!" or a kind of inward flinch/cringe. My rule is that I only agree to go out when my response is "Oh boy! Yay!" If it's a flinch/cringe, I say no from the start. If I'm busy in spite of being interested (because I do have a full life), I will say so ("I'd love to, but some other time"). If I'm not interested, I just say no thank you, period. I don't give reasons or excuses. I just say no.

I have had another tricky issue come up in the last few years since I've become semi-famous in certain circles and have been doing public appearances in author mode, especially since a lot of my public appearances are in the science fiction realm where social skills aren't necessarily fully developed among everyone (trying to put that as nicely as I can). I seem to run into a lot of men who mistake my professional friendliness that goes with being an author guest dealing with the public for personal interest, and then they start asking me out. Although my inclination is to be nice, I've had to develop a policy of just ignoring unsolicited personal propositions that come through my fan mail e-mail address or my blog. I may not be movie-star famous, but I figure that most people in the public eye don't respond when random strangers they've had contact with only in a public capacity ask them out. If I meet someone at a convention and want to pursue a relationship, I'll make that clear and will provide contact info or will ask for contact info.

Yeah, my dating life pretty much ground to a halt when I gave up going out with people I wasn't into, so I guess I'm pretty picky, but I don't have any regrets or second thoughts about anyone I've said no to. In fact, I suspect that's salvaged a few friendships. But I'm not the kind of person who has to be dating someone to be happy. I'm happy single, so I have no need to date someone unless I really want to be with that person.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Change of Pace

I tested my new walking shoes with a walk to the post office this morning. As I left the house, it was overcast and a little cool, very refreshing, and I had in mind a nice, long walk after I dropped off my mail. Then when I was a block away from home, the sun came out and it suddenly became very muggy, so I just took the long way home and still was all sweaty by the time I got back. I guess I should have gone walking before breakfast instead of after.

I've been talking about changing routines and shaking things up. This came from something I read for my medical school work (I am not in medical school. I used to work at a medical school and I still do freelance work for them.). According to a psychologist, the way a vacation helps refresh you is by changing your patterns and habits temporarily. You're doing different things at a different time in a different place, and that forms new connections in your brain that allow you to look at the old stuff in a different way. You're also thinking about different things if you can really get your mind into vacation mode. Then when you return to reality, your mind is refreshed for dealing with the usual things. That's how I still felt like I'd had a vacation back when I had a day job and I used my vacation time to go to writing conferences. It was really just doing a different kind of work, but because it was different, it was refreshing. Ditto with my very non-restful typical vacations. I may come home physically exhausted and with impressive blisters all over my feet, but I'm mentally revived. And that's how a "staycation" can work as well as a trip, as long as you're changing your routine and thinking about things other than work.

It becomes trickier with a life/job like mine, where what I do all day is what I used to do when I took vacation time from my job. There's not a huge mental difference between hanging out at home and reading reference books and hanging out at home and reading for fun. I also don't have the time right now to completely step away from work because I've got a book I need to develop. I'm not trying to do full-on vacation mode, just shake things up a little, refresh myself and switch mental gears. Normally, my "staycations" involve not doing writing stuff, but keeping up with the business stuff, like answering e-mails, keeping up with marketing activities, etc. This time, I'm trying to just do the creative part of my work and put business aside for a while. I know my agent's out of the office, so I won't likely have anything to deal with from her. I'm letting the fan mail pile up a bit because I need a break from finding new and exciting ways to say that it's the publisher who doesn't want to do book 5 and other publishers aren't interested in picking up the next book in a series where the backlist is still with the previous publisher (yes, we've tried). I know I'll have to deal with a ton of e-mail when I go back to "normal," as well as a lot of record keeping, but it's fun being purely creative for a while and completely immersing myself in the developing book without much intrusion from the real world.

I'm also trying to shake up my schedule some, doing "morning" things in the afternoon or "afternoon" things in the morning. I'm trying some new things or new approaches to doing the same old things. The physical therapy is helping with that, since it automatically forces schedule changes. I think it's also good for me to spend a lot less time online, even for fun stuff. I may go back to "normal" after next week, and I am planning a real "vacation" in the fall, after I get this book proposal done. I may not go anywhere (travel isn't very appealing to me at the moment), but I'll try to act like I'm at a nice resort while I'm at home.

And I do think it's working. I've come up with some things that are outside the norm for me -- different types of characters and different approaches to characters. One may be a risk: in the age of ass-kicking heroines, this one is going to start as a bit of a waif, someone who is sheltered and innocent and who has no idea how brave she can be, so she lets others come to the rescue. She will grow and change, of course, and that's rather the idea, getting to see her grow stronger. It's very Sarah Connor -- she was a meek waitress at the beginning of The Terminator. It wouldn't have been as interesting a story if she'd been a Marine or an FBI agent. Now we'll see if publishers will go for a character who's not busting out the ninja moves with multiple weapons in chapter one, and we'll see if I can pull off showing her potential for strength even while she's cowering at the beginning.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Chick Flick Mission Accomplished

This has been a busy day. Physical therapy and grocery shopping in the morning, then after lunch and dealing with a couple of things for the medical school I went to the downtown library and came away with a ton of reference books. Very soon, I will retreat to the sofa to begin plowing my way through the reference books. My office really isn't that pleasant on summer afternoons. I blame the skylight.

I believe I finally satisfied my chick flick cravings yesterday. I saw Letters to Juliet at the dollar theater, and that was absolutely delightful, exactly the sort of thing I was looking for. I wouldn't classify it as a romantic comedy because although there were some romantic comedy elements, that part of the movie was more of a subplot and something that happened as a byproduct of the other stuff that was happening. It's certainly very romantic, but I'd say more chick flick than a romance, if you want to get into fine distinctions.

It's the story of a magazine fact checker/aspiring writer who goes with her chef fiance to Verona. While he's doing restaurant-related stuff, she explores and discovers "Juliet's secretaries," the women who answer the letters left on the wall below the balcony at the house local legend says was the home of Juliet (of "Romeo and" fame). While helping them collect the letters, she finds one shoved deep in a crack. It was left there more than 50 years ago by a young Englishwoman who'd been studying in Italy and had fallen in love with a local farmboy. Her parents didn't approve of him, and they'd made plans to meet secretly, but she'd chickened out and never went. Our heroine decides to answer this letter, and then is surprised when a couple of days later the woman shows up in Verona, determined to track down her lost love -- much to the dismay of her rather overprotective and very unromantic lawyer grandson. Our heroine tags along on the quest, with the idea that this would make a great article, and watching the way this woman goes boldly toward seeking true love makes her reconsider her own relationship.

There are a number of things I like about this movie. For one thing, Vanessa Redgrave as the older woman seeking her first love is absolutely radiant. There's a real grace about her as she meets all the men who share her love's apparently very common name. Although I'm a big fan of happy endings, I got the feeling during the movie that I'd be okay -- and she'd be okay -- even if she never found him because the experience along the way was worthwhile. She seems to get something lovely out of each encounter. Another think I like was that they avoid a lot of the usual romantic comedy cliches. A lot of films would have had the writer not tell the woman and her grandson that she was writing an article about them, so then there would be the huge sense of betrayal when it came out, and they'd think she was using them, but she was very up front with what she was doing, so they avoided the annoying secret conflict. They don't vilify Mr. Wrong or imply that he did anything wrong. He's just not right for her, and the relationship they have isn't what she wants. Too often, the Mr. Wrong character exists mostly to make Mr. Right look good, but this one is someone I actually liked and sympathized with. And then there's no love vs. career kind of dilemma. In fact, achieving her career goals is part of her finding love because the whole theme of the movie is taking a chance and going after what you want. Finally, it seems like all the character grow, change and learn something from their experiences.

Plus, there was lots of Italian countryside porn and Italian cooking porn. Wouldn't you know, I didn't have ingredients to cook Italian food, so I had to wing it with just doing some garlic in olive oil and tossed with pasta. I don't actually know how to cook real Italian. I just imitate what I've eaten in restaurants. But I checked a book on Italian cooking out of the library, so now I'll start learning. At any rate, I may get this movie on DVD when it comes out because it falls firmly into the "feel-good movie" category, and it's the kind of thing I could watch just to look at the scenery.

The rest of my day out excursion was less successful. I need a new pair of dressy black flats, and the styles currently available are pretty hideous. It's like no one ever tried any of these designs on actual human feet before they went into production. They're cut all out of proportion. I did find a pair of walking shoes on the clearance rack, and they feel so nice and springy that I may even get up early in the morning and take a walk before it gets hot. After the shoe shopping fail, I hit the bookstore, and there I found a fun book on chick flicks, organized by mood, so you can find the right movie whether you want a good cry, a good laugh, a bad boy or a man behaving well. Plus, there are ratings for the various types of hunks and entries on "guy movies pretending to be girl movies." The book's called Cinematherapy and it is rather outdated, going only to the late 90s (probably why it was on clearance), but it's still a lot of fun to read and will be handy for evaluating movies on cable.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Self-Help Chick Flick

I'm about to spend a rare day out on the town doing stuff that has absolutely nothing to do with work. It's 50 cent day at the dollar movie theater, and then I'm going non-specific browse shopping for something other than books for the first time in at least a year. There are some things on my mental list, but it's not like I have to buy a particular thing for a particular reason. I'm just keeping an eye out for some things but can hold out until I find exactly what I want. At this point, it's mostly about the shoes because almost all of my shoes have simultaneously worn out or ceased being comfortable. There may be some book browsing, as well, as there's a bookstore next to the shoe store.

Since I'm short on time this morning, I dug into my futures file and found this whole series of posts I wrote earlier this year that were inspired by the movie He's Just Not That Into You. So, for the next few days, I'll be posting those (since I've been on a chick flick kick anyway). The concept behind the movie spurred a lot of thoughts. Although I was intrigued by the idea of turning a self-help book into a romantic comedy film, I wasn't intrigued enough to ignore the bad reviews and see He's Just Not That Into You at the theater. But I finally caught it on HBO, and I have to say that I'd likely have been disappointed if I'd paid to see it, though it wasn't that horrible. There were some interesting ideas struggling to get out of the muddle, but I think ultimately the film undermined its whole premise.

For those who haven't followed this saga, this movie was based on a dating advice book that was based on a Sex and the City episode. The central premise of the book was that you're wasting your time dating and worrying about men who aren't into you, with the various signs that a man just isn't that into you. Women are encouraged to stop making excuses for the way men treat them and just face the fact that if men are treating them that way, the men just aren't that into them. They're not intimidated by how awesome the women are, they're not scared by emotional maturity, they haven't lost the phone number. If men aren't calling you, if they aren't asking you out, if they're sleeping with other people, and, eventually, if they aren't asking you to marry them, they're just not that into you. This wasn't exactly earthshattering stuff. In fact, I'd already come up with a similar set of personal dating rules based on my experiences, but the book took off like wildfire (thanks also to appearances on Oprah).

Part of the movie is done as a quasi-documentary (which makes sense, as the director is a frequent director on The Office), focusing on one woman who is trying to make sense of men and dating. The movie starts by showing where a lot of this starts, in childhood, when girls are told that boys who pick on them really like them, and that's their way of showing it. That part was painfully true, and it struck me how horrible this is. I'm sure that adults are trying to make girls feel better when boys insult them or are even somewhat physically violent with them, but is that what we really want to teach girls? I remember from elementary school that a girl couldn't complain about a boy pushing her, hitting her or saying mean things to her without the teacher saying, "That just means he likes you." Meanwhile, the boy got a free pass for being a jerk. Talk about a setup for unhealthy relationship patterns.

The main character starts looking at how all this really works when she's disappointed by yet another guy saying he'll call and then never calling, so she goes to the bar where he said he often hangs out, in hopes of "casually" running into him. A Macintosh computer then reads the advice book to her. Well, actually, the bartender played by Justin Long tells her the honest truth, that if the guy isn't calling her, it only means he isn't into her, and why should she waste time worrying about a guy who doesn't like her? It's an epiphany for her, and he becomes her dating guru, someone she calls from the restroom during dates to help her figure out if the guy is into her.

Meanwhile, there are subplots involving a couple of her co-workers, one who's been with a man for years and who is getting frustrated with his refusal to get married, and one whose husband is cheating on her (though apparently she asked for it by insisting that a man who wasn't that into her marry her). And then there's yet another set of sub-subplots, involving the guy who didn't call the main character and his female friend, who is the woman the husband is cheating with, plus her friend, who has no clue about dating. And then there are a number of talking-head "interviews" where women talk about their dating lives and the way men treat them (a la When Harry Met Sally).

The movie undermines itself in a number of ways. First, the main character isn't just a normal woman who needs a little help translating "guy" to English. She's kind of a psycho doormat who puts up with all kinds of nonsense when she is dating someone (like a guy who breaks up with her every Friday so he can have his weekends free) and who puts her entire life on hold while waiting for a guy she had drinks with once to call her. Second, one of the major premises of the book and the advice the Mac bartender gives her is that she should forget about the exceptions -- all those dating urban legends about the one time a situation like this worked out. The guy who didn't call but who really had lost the number and who was glad to see the girl when she ran into him, and they lived happily ever after. The guy who really did leave his wife so he could marry the other woman. The guy who was a jerk but who changed when the woman stuck with him. Women should forget about the exceptions and stop thinking that this time will be different. But two of the happy endings involved exceptions.

I like the ensemble romantic comedies where there are multiple interwoven stories whose endings fall at various places on the happiness continuum. I think this would have been a better movie if the stories had been more interwoven beyond just the characters knowing each other. The main character's quest to understand dating and the way men treat women could have led to her observing or even getting involved in her friends' relationships. That mock documentary approach really could have worked well with this. Or they could have gone really over the top with it and had the women band together in a kind of dating revolution as they stopped playing or responding to the games. What would happen if everyone really did follow the advice in all those self-help books? You could almost have a modern Lysistrata if all women wrote off men who didn't call or who didn't treat them well.

I suspect this will become one of those movies that ends up running constantly on cable, like on Lifetime or Oxygen, and that you can turn on at any point and watch part of it, then turn it off.

Monday, July 26, 2010

That Pesky Plot Thing

I now have five jars of homemade strawberry jam to get me through fall and winter tea times. I feel like some self-sufficient, skilled pioneer woman. I started making jam about two years ago, and it's become something of a summer tradition. I'm not entirely sure why I do it. I started just to see if I could. I suppose that it costs less to make those five jars than it does to buy five jars of the same size, but if I didn't make the jam, I doubt I'd buy that much. I do think that my jam tastes better than what I buy at the store. I don't even like store-bought strawberry jam all that much and seldom by it (if I buy jam, it's usually blackberry or raspberry), but I love what I make. I also know exactly what's in it -- no high-fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners or colorings. And there's that sense of accomplishment, which may be part of what makes it taste better. There's something nice about knowing that I made it that increases the enjoyment. Maybe I should hit the British import shop nearby and see if I can get some clotted cream and have a proper cream tea one of these days.

Now, of course, the kitchen is something of a disaster area. I have some dish washing to do, and I need to put up the food processor. I need to let the shoulder rest from physical therapy this morning, though. It was another grueling session and I'm really hurting, though I have better mobility. Have I mentioned that I'm ready to have this healed and over with? I've almost forgotten what it's like to move freely without pain or resistance.

I think I'm almost ready to start writing this new book. The characters are coming to life for me well enough that I'm imagining scenes. I don't know if these scenes will end up in the book, but I'm able to picture conversations among the characters. I do have a little more research to do to nail down some details of the situation, and I have this one pesky little thing to figure out: a plot.

I have the situation figured out, and the characters and their big-picture goals in life, as well as their secret yearnings and desires. But what I need is a specific story goal, the thing that they are taking action to achieve -- like catching the murderer, finding the lost ark, destroying the Death Star, escaping from the killer robot from the future, winning the big game, etc. All of these are specific, tangible external goals. When I mention these goals, you probably get a pretty good mental image of what the scene will look like when the characters are in the big scene where they ultimately either achieve or don't achieve their goal. Usually, everything is on the line, and if they don't succeed here, they will have failed for good, with no second chances. Catching the murderer usually involves some kind of confrontation or showdown, for instance, and quite often, Our Hero or someone dear to Our Hero is the next likely victim. If they don't stop and nab this guy now, then all is lost. If they don't destroy the Death Star NOW, then the Rebel Alliance will be destroyed, and it comes down to a big space battle. Escaping the killer robot from the future will probably involve finding a way to destroy it for good, so there's going to be a final confrontation that one of them won't escape from.

And that's the part I'm missing. That means I need to spend some time digging into my situation to find what they want to achieve or need to have happen NOW that they can spend the book building toward, until it comes to the point where it's now or never, do or die, and we'll know definitively whether they've failed or succeeded. I do know the big overall goal -- the equivalent of wanting to overthrow the Evil Galactic Empire. I just don't know what the equivalent to "get the secret plans to someone who can figure out a way to destroy the Death Star before it destroys us" is.

Ooh, and I was just struck by the tiniest germ of an idea that might work. It was good enough that my heart rate actually sped up. Oh, but it's going to be horrible for my heroine. Poor girl. I'm so sorry for what I'm about to do to her.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Working World

Yesterday turned out to be not quite as unscheduled as I'd hoped, as the glass company finally had my new window ready. That meant waiting during the "they'll be there between x and y" time (and then a little more), then hovering in the living room after they took out the whole window to put the new pane in (I figured I ought to hang around while I had a giant hole in the front of my house). That ate up most of my afternoon, but I now have a nice, clear window. The old one was so fogged between the panes that it looked like frosted glass. Today is jam-making day. It's an all-day process because my recipe calls for the jam to be cooked, then cooled to room temperature, then chilled for a couple of hours, then cooked again before putting it in jars. It's currently in the cooling to room temperature phase, which takes a while. I started everything first thing in the morning so I wouldn't be doing the canning at 10 p.m. Right now, my house smells like strawberries.

I think this afternoon may be movie day, either something on HBO or something from the DVD collection. I want to do some brainstorming, and that seems to go better with background noise. I guess the movie gives my conscious brain something to distract it while the subconscious generates ideas. I think I'm close to done with one part of my research. I found a documentary on the subject at the library, and when watching it, I found that nothing in it was new to me, other than the visuals to go with it. I still have a few more specialized areas to dig into, including one that's so specialized I'll be surprised if I can find any references on that subject alone. I'll have to see if there might be chapters on it within other books.

The other day, HBO showed Working Girl in the afternoon, and although now it looks so very late 80s (those suits! those shoulder pads!), I still have a lot of fondness for that movie. Some of that has to do with the circumstances in which I first saw it. It was during the spring semester of my junior year in college. I was interning at a TV station and had worked that day. We'd had one of those freak cold snaps the previous day, where the temperature drops something like 50 degrees in a couple of hours, so most of the stories we were doing were about how various groups were coping with the cold. One of my friends from my journalism classes was also working that day, and we got to go out on stories together. Then we stayed at the station during the evening news. That meant I missed dinner in the dorm, so my friend suggested we go out to dinner together. During dinner, we decided to go to a movie, and we picked Working Girl. We were both all dressed up for work, and the fact that we went from the TV station meant I felt very grown-up and sophisticated, which fit well with what was going on in the movie. That friendship never developed into a relationship after that quasi-date, so I guess he didn't see me that way, and since I don't recall being horribly disappointed that he didn't ask me out again, and I don't remember pining, and we were still friends when we graduated, I guess I wasn't all that into him, either. I just remember that while we were out together, I found myself thinking that I wouldn't mind if it developed into something more, and that meant the evening felt full of possibilities, which gave it an extra charge, even though nothing happened. (Strangely enough, my brother ended up working with this guy years later, as we discovered in one of those weird "I know UT was a big school, but did you know ...?" conversations.)

So, anyway, that movie brings up memories of one of the best dates I ever had, even though it wasn't really a date. As for the movie itself, one of the things I like about it is that it wasn't ever really pitched as love vs. career. Her ultimate dilemma was love and career vs. personal integrity, and she stuck to her guns, being willing to sacrifice both love and career to hold true to herself. The guy was the one who had to choose love or career, with love representing personal integrity, when he had to decide to risk his career to stand up for her. It's a nice switch from the usual romantic comedy dilemmas. Although it's a heroine-centered film, she really just gains confidence. He's the one who has to really change because he has to stand up for himself and for what's right and who has to learn to be bold -- she's the one who has to persuade him to try unorthodox approaches, and he's the one who can't even bring himself to break up with his girlfriend. It's a shame that Harrison Ford didn't make more romantic comedies when he was in the prime age for that sort of thing (when he was roughly in the same age range as the romantic comedy leading ladies). Both Han Solo and Indiana Jones showed that he's got excellent comic timing, and he had a kind of ruggedness that made him look like a man instead of a boy even when he was young. The scene where he's stuck with her after the combination of Valium and alcohol knocks her out and he can't think of anything to do with her is classic -- the running, apologetic monologue as he carries her up the stairs to her place and then fumbles to play host to his unconscious guest by offering coffee or herbal tea (that he doesn't actually have, but that sounds good). It's that Indiana Jones in professor mode self-deprecating humor that's so very charming.

If you've read my books and remember Mimi, you might suspect I've had a few evil bosses of the Sigourney Weaver character's variety, and you'd be right. I think I had more women during my career who were problems than I had men. I did sometimes get a little patronizing and condescension from men, but then I spent my career dealing with doctors, scientists and engineers (who were condescending and patronizing to everyone, and I'll tolerate a little patronizing from someone with a Nobel prize), but I don't recall any real sexism of the "you can't do that because you're female" variety from men. I was more likely to get competitive bitchiness from women, and something I saw a lot of was the women who'd come up during the "man's world" era, when it was unusual for a woman to make it so far, and who didn't seem to want any other women to succeed. They were special and unique as women in a man's world, and it was almost like they were afraid that if more women made it, they wouldn't be special anymore, so they tried to sabotage any women who might make it. I never had anyone steal ideas, but I did have clients who lied to my boss about what they'd assigned and what I'd done and tried to get me in trouble (there was one we had to start recording in meetings to prove what she'd really asked for) or who CCd everyone above me with the very first complaint about something, which usually involved asking why something she'd forgotten to ask for hadn't been done, or checking to see why she didn't yet have something that wasn't due for another week. Those experiences make the conflict in the movie even more real and vivid to me now than when I first saw it and the working world was still just a fantasy of a potential future.

Now I'd better go check on my jam.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Social Networking, etc.

For the first time in a very long time (it feels like), I don't have to go anywhere today, and I have no pressing, specific deadlines. There are things that need to be done, but they don't absolutely have to be done today. And because of dropping back to two days a week for physical therapy, the same applies to tomorrow. Today's big plans involve cleaning my kitchen, since baking a peach cobbler managed to utterly destroy it. That includes cleaning the oven, since the cobbler boiled over. I thought I was being clever when I put the pan on a cookie sheet, but the cookie sheet is slightly warped, so all the sticky peach juice just rolled off the cookie sheet and onto the bottom of the oven, and that means I have to clean the oven and the cookie sheet. I need to get the kitchen back in order because I think tomorrow will be strawberry jam day, and making jam requires a lot of space.

But the cobbler was very, very good. This recipe is a lot of work, but it tastes so good. I'll be cutting the cobbler into pieces and freezing them to enjoy through the fall and winter. I've tried just freezing the peaches and then baking when the weather's cooler, but that doesn't work as well.

Meanwhile, the shoulder's as sore as I feared it would be, and I can't tell how much of the soreness is from the muscles and how much is from the scar tissue around the joint having been severely stretched. However, it feels a lot looser. I can move more and have less of a sense of resistance. That means I'm really close to being well. I want to get back to normal so I can do ballroom dancing, and I've found out about a circus school nearby that offers circus fitness classes, and I'd need to get that arm back to full strength in order to hang from a trapeze or silks. I won't be running off to join Cirque du Soleil, but since I find ordinary exercise boring, I have to find fun ways to trick myself into working out.

I had a big "aha!" moment on the project I'm currently developing yesterday, and now that means I've pretty much figured out what's going on with my main cast. This came while listening to possible soundtrack material, though, oddly, the song that triggered the revelation wouldn't go on the soundtrack. Of course, this new twist means a couple of other research avenues I'll need to explore. And I think I've created a character I will fall madly in love with, and I wasn't expecting this character to get that response. He was going to be the "other guy," and now already I'm in swoon mode. I love it when things like this happen.

Now, back to that poll/survey I posted last week. I really wasn't making a desperate plea for comments. I'm just a firm believer in market research, and I wanted to check in to see how I was doing. It looks like the mix of things I currently talk about is what people do want to talk about, so I won't be making any drastic changes. At this point, I'm not focusing too much on marketing because I'm mostly preaching to the choir. The results I'd get from a more intense marketing effort would probably be minimal, since the books aren't so widely available. What I need to focus on right now is writing to get something new on the market, and social networking is a huge time suck.

I do have a Facebook account, but I mostly use that for keeping in touch with real-life friends, not for book purposes. Perhaps I should create a fan page that I can use for book stuff and limit my personal page to people I actually know. I'm leery of too much Facebook activity because it's so intrusive. They push every little thing you do out to everyone. It's not like I have anything I want to hide, but I don't see why every one of my friends would care that I posted a comment on the page of someone they don't even know. I may eventually give in and do the Twitter thing, but I still haven't figured out what I'd say.

I do think it might be interesting to do a discussion on the Enchanted, Inc. books, maybe in the fall. Start thinking about questions you'd like me to address -- preferably things that require essay answers, and limit them to the books that have been published, not what might happen next.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Revision: Scene by Scene

I had a particularly grueling (in a good way) therapy session this morning. My usual therapist is on vacation, and as a fill-in I had a strapping young man who really pushed me, both in the stretching and manipulation he does and in raising the difficulty level of the exercises. I can already tell a difference in the shoulder. It's moving a lot more freely. I suspect I will be in some pain later in the day, and I'll probably have to do some stretches tonight to keep it lose. There may be swimming pool time, just to be in the water and moving, but I'm now so close to normal that it's exciting.

Now, it's writing post time.

I'm still talking about revision. Last time, I dealt with the big-picture, story-level revisions. I'm going to get into the more detailed level of revision, but first, something occurred to me a day after I posted about big-picture revisions. One way to check that your story is working is to compare it to a standard story structure, as found in writing books, especially screenwriting books. That's a good way to make sure you've got turning points spaced in a good way. There's the hero's journey, the three-act structure, and plot structures for all the various sub-genres. Novels don't have to follow structure as closely as screenplays do, but this is a good way to check your plotting and pacing.

But once you have the big picture roughly the way you want it, it's time to dig deeper. This is like the medium-grit sandpaper after you've used the chainsaw and chisel. At this phase, I like to look at each scene individually and in more depth than in the scene-by-scene outline I do in working on the big picture. I make sure that at least one character in each scene has a clear goal and that there's some conflict -- something stopping the character from achieving that goal or making it harder. Also, something should change as the result of each scene. Someone should learn something, change their minds, change their attitudes. Or the context or physical situation should change. Either the characters or their world should be at least a little bit different after each scene. Otherwise, why is it there? If nothing changes, then think about why the scene is in the book. Are you trying to convey a particular piece of information or character development? You may be able to put that information into another scene where something changes. Combining two scenes and cutting out any extraneous material is a good way to tighten a book and improve the pacing. I've seen some writing books say that each scene should turn on an axis -- either positive to negative or negative to positive, possibly negative to even more negative but probably not positive to more positive -- but I've never managed to make that work in absolutely every scene.

Something else you want to look for is too many scenes that look too similar when you outline those key elements of goal and conflict. For instance, if your characters' goal is to escape and the conflict is that the bad guys are after them, and that happens in scene after scene, you may have a repetitive-feeling story. In a pursuit or escape story that can be hard to avoid, but you can make each scene unique. Look at ways to mix things up by having the situation change in different ways with each chase. The characters can learn something about the bad guys that affects their next step, their actions while escaping could make matters worse for them, they could find something other than the bad guys blocking the way. Or you could make something other than escaping from the bad guys be the primary goal for some scenes, like maybe trying to find something even while the bad guys are chasing them. You can use a similar-seeming scene to show how the characters change over time because of the different way they react to similar circumstances. And sometimes, you may find that you don't actually need one of the scenes because it just repeats all the same beats as another scene.

One thing I've tried recently (after a workshop recommended it) is color-coding the manuscript for things like dialogue, introspection, description and action. That's a good way to see when you've got infodumps of introspection that could maybe be broken up or delivered in dialogue or when you've neglected to put in any description. So far, though, I think my main benefit from doing that comes from reading each scene several times to highlight everything and then again to evaluate what I've highlighted. I do think this has helped me spot when a scene really isn't working or is maybe a little boring. You should usually have a kind of mosaic effect with the colors, where the dialogue, action, description and introspection are all woven together instead of being in huge blocks, though that may vary depending on what's going on in the scene.

During this phase, it's also good to check for continuity, especially if you've made a lot of changes during the previous draft. Make sure that you don't have references to things that no longer happen or that happen in a different order and make sure that everything's been set up properly or that characters have all been introduced.

Next time: the fine-grit sandpaper.

And now I think I'm going to get domestic. I need to bake a peach cobbler, so I need to clean the kitchen a bit, and then I'll need to clear some space in the refrigerator for other cooking I'll be doing later this week, so it's time for a refrigerator purge. Tonight will be a movie night (to be enjoyed with cobbler), but I haven't decided if I'll go with a chick flick or something that relates to the project I'm researching. Maybe I'll do a marathon, with one of each, or I'll find something that combines the two.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Recent Reading and Viewing

I'm starting to really enjoy my current "morning person" phase. It's amazing how much I manage to get done before the time I'm usually just getting started in the morning. Today I ran some errands, made a research trip to the downtown library, got groceries and was home an hour before lunchtime.

Now for a catch-up of TV and book stuff.

Over the weekend, I read Wizard Squared, the latest book in the Rogue Agent series by K.E. Mills. This one went back to the events of the first book, but in an alternate universe where Gerald made a different decision and things took a very different turn. Now that Gerald has gone mad with power, and the only person who could defeat him is our Gerald, who is equally powerful, but still good. After the more fun romp of the second book, this one goes rather darker. I'll have to read it again to catch everything, since I got into desperate page-turning mode toward the end. Exploring "what ifs" is a favorite theme of mine, and it's interesting to see how one decision can send things spiraling in a different direction. What I love most about this series is the characters. I keep hearing that nice people make for boring characters, but Gerald, the main character in this series, is truly nice. In fact, that's his primary characteristic. He is a nice, gentle, good man, thrown into some difficult situations. When you think about it, it's probably more interesting to put a nice, good man into a really hairy situation than it is to put a tough guy into that situation. Poor Gerald is really getting the Job treatment, though. I know she's recently sold more books in this series, but I haven't seen a publication date for the next one.

Meanwhile, Tuesday night has really become TV night. I was already watching Warehouse 13 and White Collar, and then they made things difficult by putting them opposite each other (grrrr), but fortunately, cable repeats things, so I can catch the 10 p.m. showing of Warehouse 13. In between, there's Covert Affairs, which is more typical USA Network fluffy action. I liked the pilot well enough. I like the characters, and there's promise in the situation. When ballet starts again in a few weeks, this may be one I catch OnDemand or in one of the later airings (I really love the way the cable networks do that) because the night is just too packed to try to keep up with everything while also being out that night. I hope these summer series finish before the fall TV season starts again, or it will take all week just to watch the Tuesday series.

Last night, when I was looking for something to watch but not wanting to stay up late enough to watch a whole movie, I watched Haven, one of the new Sci Fi Channel series, OnDemand, and I rather liked it. It's another sort of lighter take on the X-Files theme, this time set in a small town in Maine where weird things are happening. An FBI agent sent to the town to question someone who turns out to have just been killed finds that her mysterious past may have links to this town. She ends up working with a local cop. She's the believer in the pair, open to admitting that weird things are happening. He's the skeptic, even though it turns out he's something of an X-file himself, since he doesn't feel pain and there are hints there's more to it than that, but his skepticism ends up being more like denial because he just doesn't want to face the possible truth. I have to admit that the individual episode plots are rather on the silly side (and not intentionally so, like with Warehouse 13), but I love the main characters and their interaction, and the overall plot arc is intriguing. I particularly like the female lead because between the writing and the acting they seem to have found a way to convey assertiveness without it crossing the line to bitchy. She has a wry humor underlying even her most pushy moments, and her assertiveness never comes across as unreasonable. The guy is interesting to me primarily because the actor would be perfect casting for one of the main characters in the book that's currently simmering on the back burner. It was like he stepped out of my head. Their interplay is fun. They don't seem to be hitting us over the head with sexual tension, and while there is some "Don't tell me you didn't see that, how else would you explain it?" conflict, they don't do a lot of bickering. They mostly swap clever one liners. After watching the pilot, I immediately watched the next episode, and now I'm caught up and have to wait for the next new one.

And now since I have tons of reference books to plow through, and Working Girl is going to be on one of the HBO channels, I think I'm going to adjourn to the sofa for the afternoon. I have a lot of fondness for that movie, possibly because I first saw it on a great spontaneous quasi-date, but the theme song also makes me want to take over the world.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Changing the Routine

I believe I've really mixed up my routine now. I went out of town, took a long weekend, then this morning I had physical therapy and a dentist appointment. This afternoon, I finally got to use my new swimsuit. I was thinking about going grocery shopping, then when I went to the mailbox, I saw that the pool was empty and very inviting-looking, so I scrapped the plans and hit the water for a while. And now I'm very sleepy because swimming seems to do that to me.

I think I've proved that I don't have an Internet addiction, since I've been almost entirely offline from mid-day Wednesday until this afternoon. I did skim e-mail Thursday because there was a bit of local drama my church was in the middle of (of the making national news variety) and I needed to see if they'd need a choir or hostesses. Unfortunately, the downside to going offline that long is that the Internet keeps on going, and that means it's hard to catch up. Right now, my mailbox is making me whimper and cringe when I look at it, but since there's nothing from a publisher or my agent, I think I'll wait to deal with it. In the future, maybe I shouldn't post something designed to generate feedback while I'm mostly offline for a few days (the idea was that I could let the feedback pile up while I was gone so I could assess it as a whole instead of as each response came in, but that still meant a lot of notification e-mails adding to the stuffed mailbox).

The nice thing about going to East Texas at this time of year is the fruit. My dad got a box of peaches from a nearby orchard, and my parents shared them with me (there will be a cobbler in my future, I think), and then when he took some figs from the backyard tree to share with a friend, the friend gave him a big sack of blueberries from his garden, which I got some of. I'm kind of afraid I'm going to turn into that girl from the Willie Wonka movie at the rate I'm eating blueberries, but they're good for me.

In other news, the shoulder has progressed to the point I only have to go to therapy twice a week. I still have to do my exercises at home, but I'm within 15 degrees of normal in most positions, and totally back to normal in one. It still feels a bit tight and it hurts sometimes, but about the only things I can't do now are zip up certain dresses and dance the robot (the latter doesn't come up very often). I did discover that swimming isn't entirely pain-free, and I should probably avoid water activities where I can't just walk to shore because treading water hurts and I'm not sure I could do it for very long.

Back to the chick flicks ... I watched Legally Blonde on one of the cable channels sometime in the past few days, and you know, that's a really fun movie. There's a lot to like about it under the pink, fluffy exterior. It seems to get classified as a romantic comedy, but it isn't really -- the relationship with Mr. Right doesn't get romantic during the movie itself. When you look at it from a structural perspective, it's actually an inversion of the romantic comedy.

Most romantic comedy films start with the heroine (or hero, but most of these films seem to focus on the woman) having a goal or desire. Often, it has something to do with a career -- wanting a particular job or promotion or project. Sometimes it involves a guy (almost always Mr. Wrong), but Mr. Wrong is usually related to the job thing, and generally, both the goal and Mr. Wrong are symbols of a particular life the heroine wants to have. If she could just get that promotion/house/project and be with Mr. Wrong, she'd have the perfect life. Then things change when Mr. Right comes on the scene and starts making her question her previous goals and assumptions about what she wanted out of life (not that he always directly challenges her, but his very presence makes her think twice). She has a change of plans and starts to develop a new desire, to win Mr. Right, even if that desire is unconscious or unspoken, and she's torn between this desire and her previous goal and will ultimately have to choose between that initial goal and True Love.

Well, with Legally Blonde, her initial goal is all about the guy. She wants her boyfriend to propose to her, and when he dumps her instead because she's not serious enough, she decides to show him serious and sets out to get into Harvard Law School so she can get him back. But the change of plans comes along when she meets the new "Mr. Right" -- law -- and her new goal is to be a good lawyer who helps people. So, instead of going from career goal to love goal, she goes from love goal to career goal. It's really more of a coming-of-age story than a romance, even if the epilogue gives us a romantic happy ending that shows that career and love aren't mutually exclusive. She's never torn between career and love. It's just that finding out what she can do when she really tries makes her realize that her boyfriend is actually kind of an idiot. It's a fun twist for the chick flick genre.

Now I must find food because swimming also makes me hungry. Maybe something involving peaches or blueberries ...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Help Me Take Over the World!

It seems to have slowed down a bit here lately, comment-wise (I don't seem to have a way of tracking page hits on the blog). I don't know if that's because it's summer, because I'm no longer relevant, or if it's because I'm not saying things that attract comments (other than when I talk about books, it seems). Or it may not have anything to do with anything. Still, it doesn't hurt to regroup and get a little feedback every so often. The idea behind having a blog is to communicate with my readers and maybe also write stuff of interest to people who haven't read my books, with the idea that they'll then want to find my books. In the Ongoing Plan for World Domination, the ideal is that I'd write stuff so compelling that people will spread the word through Twitter and other social networks, and people will then flock to my blog, forming an army of minions so mighty that the publishing world will grovel before me. Or something like that.

So, it's poll time! I tried to set this up as a real poll, with clicky boxes and everything, but the directions I found on the Blogger help thing didn't reflect what I actually see on my screen (possibly a result of that outdated browser). So, this will be an informal poll. Think of these answers as suggestions and give any feedback you like in comments. Anonymous comments are okay.

First, why do you read this blog?
You read my books and want to keep up on news
You're a friend from real life
You follow the writing posts
You think my posts are entertaining

How did you find this blog?
Link on my web site
Link via some other blog
On a friend's friends list
Searching for a topic

Now, to get into content. What topics or features do you like the most?
Book reports
The bi-weekly writing posts
Movie reviews or discussion
Television discussion
Updates on the projects in process
The publishing business
My real life

Which topics would you like to see more of?
Book discussion
Recipes and cooking
Real life
Movie discussion
Writing discussion
Television discussion
Discussion about the publishing business
Folklore and mythology

Would you be interested in:
An in-depth discussion/Q&A about my books
A "book club" for discussing a particular book and getting my thoughts on it
A reread and analysis of a popular book series
In-depth analysis of movies vaguely related to the topics in my books
An episode-by-episode, in-depth revisiting of a TV series
Health news and advice (that's my non-fiction work, may as well use it)

(Mind you, some of these will require audience participation.)

Feel free to add any thoughts or ideas about what you think would make this blog more interesting to you or that you think might recruit more minions -- er, draw more readers -- in the comments.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Love vs. Career?

Today I did manage to change my routine, sort of. I ran errands before and after physical therapy, so I didn't get to the computer until almost noon. Now I'm doing all my usual morning work stuff in the afternoon. I really will break with routine tomorrow because I'm going to visit my parents.

I saw another chick flick yesterday, not one I usually would have chosen, but it was on one of the HBO channels, and I was working on the kind of project that seems to go better for me when I do it with the TV on as background noise. The movie was called Life or Something Like It. It was about a Seattle TV reporter (Angelina Jolie in a horrendous Marilyn Monroe style wig, or else a dye job worthy of a lawsuit, plus makeup in all the wrong shades for her coloring) who interviews a wacky, surprisingly accurate street prophet for a human interest feature story and then is shocked when he tells her she's going to die within a week. She tries to brush it off, but then his other predictions come true, and that has her re-evaluating what she thought was a perfect life, with a job that makes her a local celebrity, a shot at anchoring a network morning show, and her hot major-league baseball player fiance (Christian Kane. As I said, hot.). The only person who seems to understand her existential crisis is the grungy news photographer (Ed Burns. Grungy.) she hates working with and who she suspects put the street prophet up to saying something that would wig her out.

I kind of like the concept behind this story, the idea of how you'd evaluate your life and what you'd change if you knew you'd die soon. But the execution of this was a mess, and I won't even go into the way I had to completely forget everything I knew from working in TV news in order to have this on as background noise while I did other stuff. For one thing, I think it had to take place in another universe if we were supposed to find Ed Burns more appealing than Christian Kane (even playing someone who's supposed to be an egocentric jerk, Christian Kane was a lot more charming and interesting). My main issue, though, was that it set up what I consider to be a false dilemma, and it's one we see way too often in romantic stories, the idea that a woman can either have her dream career or true love, but not both, and if she wants to have true love (and be a worthwhile human being) she has to be willing to sacrifice her dream career. Now, I understand that a romantic story has to involve some sort of sacrifice, that winning true love means being willing to give up something else, and that often the thing being given up wasn't what the person really needed. It was a false desire, and finding love ended up filling the true need that the false desire was supposed to fill. But it way too often does come down to love or career, and I do like it better when both people have to give something up. It's not just one person having to make a huge sacrifice while the other person changes nothing about his life. And if the character is expected to give up a lifelong dream for love, then I want the love to mean something. It shouldn't just be someone she hated one day before. One day going to a carnival isn't exactly the foundation for giving up a lifelong dream. The dilemma felt false to me because she could still have a worthwhile life while doing what she wanted to do, she could still find love, and I didn't feel like this particular love was something so special she'd never find its equal anywhere else.

I think they were kind of trying to show that the dream career was a false desire meant to fill some deep, inner need, based on the fact that she'd been an ugly duckling as a kid and felt overshadowed by her cheerleader sister. I'm not going to say that I can't believe someone who looks like Angelina Jolie was ever unattractive because she actually has some unusual features of the sort you have to grow into. She could have been a funny-looking kid before maturing into her features and becoming striking. But the kid they showed in flashbacks looked nothing like Angelina Jolie. No, she was horribly unattractive because she wore glasses (horrors!!!!) and was "pudgy." Mind you, she didn't actually look all that heavy to me. I think we were just supposed to assume she was horribly fat because they showed her baking cookies (clearly a sign of deep issues. I mean, who does that?) and she wore tent-like clothes. I guess they couldn't find an overweight teen actress and just had to stick a skinny one in oversized clothes.

I've actually had a character lurking in my brain who knows she's dying and realizes she's never really lived, but I haven't found quite the right story for her, and then there's the issue of whether to cop out and have her live after all or go for the downer ending where she really does die (maybe in a noble sacrifice). So I like this theme. This movie, though, wasn't a particularly interesting exploration of it. And Angelina Jolie should never, ever try to do romantic comedy. Some people just aren't funny, and I don't think it was all the script's fault.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Non-Gritty Realism

I know I said I was shaking up my routine, and here I am posting at around the usual time, but I did change my routine this morning. Normally, the first thing I do after I eat breakfast and get dressed is get on the computer and check my e-mail. Today I took a long walk, then took a shower. I put in a load of laundry, then had my second cup of tea while reading the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale catalog that came in the mail (it doesn't look like I'll be buying a lot of clothes this fall) and then did some brainstorming on the next project -- all before I went to my office. So this is a change of routine. I didn't even get online until almost 9:45. I may get really wacky and not go online until after therapy tomorrow.

I found myself a chick flick to watch last night. I'd bought a few DVDs at the soon-to-be-closed Blockbuster nearby, and one of them was Miss Potter, a biopic about author/illustrator Beatrix Potter. It counted in several chick flick categories. It had romance in it, and it was a costume drama. It had English Countryside porn (since Potter was also big in land conservation and preserving the countryside from development, donating something like 4,000 acres to the National Trust). There was historical costume porn. There was Ewan MacGregor singing (though with a truly hideous mustache that, interestingly enough, seems to have been Photoshopped off the DVD cover/movie poster). The story did have a tragic twist, but still had a happy ending. It also gets into some of the creative process for a writer. It would make a good double feature with Finding Neverland.

I'd say that the weak link was Renee Zellwegger. I hate to speak ill of a fellow Longhorn, but she's developed some annoying acting tics that seem to have started with Bridget Jones. Her way of being "British" or "prim" seems to be to squint and purse her lips. It reminds me of when I was very little and playing tea party, and the way very little girls seem to think that the way to be very proper and classy is to purse their lips, talk in a high, fruity voice and raise their little fingers when they hold a teacup. Some director really needs to break her of that habit because it's starting to get seriously distracting.

But the movie's addition of happiness to the tragedy -- it was a true story, so they couldn't exactly ignore real events, but some storytellers/moviemakers might have been tempted to stop at the tragic part and act like that was the ending -- made me think of one of the panels from the conference this weekend. The topic was whether fantasy fiction needed to be realistic. We'd talked about how the real stuff needed to be real enough to make the magic special (if everything's magical, then nothing really is), but then the topic of "gritty realism" came up, along with the question of why "gritty" seems to be the only accepted modifier for "realism." Is the gritty view any more valid than a more optimistic view?

I mentioned the fact that some of the criticism my books get is that they present a sanitized, unrealistic view of New York. But I'm writing exactly what I've experienced. I know that in the 70s, the city could be something of a hellhole, and my first trip there was in 1994, just at the beginning of the Disneyfication of Times Square, when there were still signs of the way it used to be. But these days, in the time period I'm writing about, I think most of Manhattan is safer and cleaner than Dallas. I feel far safer walking the streets alone in New York. I've never seen a crime being committed. I've never felt nervous about walking around or riding the subway. I know that there are areas in the city that aren't safe, but I don't go there, and my characters have no reason to go there. Tim Powers joked that apparently my books aren't "realistic" because there isn't a junkie with a needle hanging out of his arm lying in every doorway. It's almost like in urban fantasy the "city" has become this one kind of place, and the entire city is like that -- kind of like the way some science fiction has homogenous planets, like the ice planet or the desert planet or the jungle planet, rather than planets that have all of those things in different places. The city is the city, and it's all the bad parts of town, aside from maybe the isolated wealthy enclaves where the grit and vice just happen behind closed doors in prettier surroundings and the "real" city dwellers aren't welcome.

Meanwhile, there's the view that happy endings are unrealistic. The literary crowd sneers at romance novels because it's so unrealistic for people to fall in love and end up together. I may be single, but most people do get married, and while a third of all marriages end in divorce, that means nearly 70 percent of couples don't get divorced. So, what's more realistic and true to life, getting together and staying together, or having something go horribly wrong? I'd bet that there are far more people who meet someone, fall in love, and then get married than there are who meet someone, fall in love and then have their true love die tragically before they can marry. Even when that does happens, or if the spouse dies after the marriage, or even when there's been a divorce, that's usually not the end of the story. Life goes on, and the remaining person may find love again.

So, to sum up, "gritty" isn't always "realistic." I'm not saying it can't be. There are stories where the realism should be gritty. But happy and nice should be equally valid. I'm not sure I'd want to live in a world that was really like what's often portrayed as "realistic."

Monday, July 12, 2010

Mythcon and Changed Plans

I had a great weekend at Mythcon, and now am my usual post-con quivering mass of jelly, only more so than usual. There were still some academic presentations this morning, and I scheduled my physical therapy around that in case I decided to go, but I just couldn't bring myself to head out again. This conference had a mix of panels from the writing perspective (where I was a presenter) and academic paper presentations. It seemed to be a mix of fans, writers/aspiring writers, hobbyists (people into the subject matter as a personal interest) and academics. Tim Powers was the author guest of honor, and he was absolutely delightful. He was on all the same panels with me, and we got into some great discussions.

On Sunday morning I went to some of the academic presentations, and there was one that really blew my mind because it was like this lightbulb went off, and I realized what the book I've been working on is really supposed to be about. The foundations are there, but I haven't really developed those elements, and doing so will turn everything on its axis. It was this "Oooooh!!!! Damn!" reaction because I had thought I was almost done, but now I realize I've got a lot more work to do, and yet doing this work could make this book something special.

On the basis of the Big Revelation, I have made an executive decision to backburner that book for a while. Looking at it in a whole new way will require looking at it with fresh eyes, and I can't do that when it's still so new to me after doing an intensive revision draft. I need to set it aside, and I've got some reading and thinking to do. To be totally honest with myself, I'm not sure how well this book would go over in the current market. It doesn't fit any particular hot niche, and while at the moment I think it's a pretty good genre book, I'm not sure it's good enough to stand on its own without fitting into a particular niche. I haven't seen anything else on the market that's remotely like it in the combination of subject matter and tone, and that generally means you're looking at an uphill battle. The book then needs to be truly extraordinary, and I don't think it is yet, but with this new perspective it has the potential to be (if I pull it off).

Meanwhile, the next book I want to tackle and that I'm already researching would fit into a currently very hot niche, something editors are saying they're looking for and not quite getting what they want. I could probably sell it on a proposal, if I do a good one. When something is really hot and you have a project that fits a rising trend, it's a good idea to jump on it (notice, I'm not saying to chase the trend and create purely to follow the trend) so you get in on the upswing before the market gets saturated. So instead of spending another couple of months working on this other book, and then doing the couple of months of research and development to get this new idea going, I'm going to get this proposal together now, and then maybe I can take another look at the previous book and be ready to fix it.

I'm considering the next couple of weeks to be "corporate retreat" time. I need a mental break, so I may spend a little less time working or give myself entire days off. Otherwise, I'll spend time reading books related to the next project, doing research, watching movies that inspire me in some way, doing some brainstorming, etc.

I must have been pretty excited about all this because I barely slept last night. When I was semi-conscious, I was thinking about the next book, and when I slept, I had weird dreams about the previous one.

I may shake up my blog posting schedule because part of my creative corporate retreat is to try to get out of some ruts or habits. I start my day with my Internet time, and what I may do is report at the end of the day on any adventures I've had.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Revisiting Four Weddings

The window guys did finally call -- during the less than two hours I was out of the house all day. I'd told them that I'd be around all morning and then in the late afternoon, so of course they called just before 2. But then they came by when I called them back after I got home from physical therapy. It never ceases to amaze me how difficult so many repair people are to deal with. I guess they know they have valuable skills, but it's almost like they work hard to maximize the inconvenience for their customers. I know that the cable company is supposed to be the epitome of annoying to deal with, but so far, they've been a dream compared to any plumbers, electricians or air conditioning people I've dealt with. Don't even get me started on appliance delivery people or movers.

I scratched my chick flick itch last night by watching Four Weddings and a Funeral. I guess it's not strictly a chick flick, as it's very much from the male perspective, but the target audience is women, so I'm going with it. It was also the kind of thing I was in the mood for, and since I was using it as background noise while doing some work, something old and familiar was perfect.

I have a love/hate relationship with that movie. I love the concept of following a group of people just through a series of major events, and using those events to show how those people's lives have changed. When I first saw that movie, I was in my mid-20s and in that phase of life when all my friends seemed to be getting married, so I was going to at least one wedding a month, and I could totally relate to the feeling that my social life revolved around weddings. I love that crazy, quirky group of friends, and the wedding scenes are brilliant. I haven't been stuck at a table of exes, but I have been at a wedding where I ran into every guy I'd dated in the past several years.

The problem for me is that I really hate the "love interest" character, and the central romantic relationship doesn't work for me at all. Andie MacDowell played the role like she thought "sedated and bored" was the same as "sexily languid," and I can't get behind a relationship that involves cheating.

I guess I should warn that there will be spoilers here, for those who haven't seen this movie and think they still might someday.

I think my main problem is that the relationship never looked all that interesting to me. They exchanged a few words at one wedding and ended up sleeping together. Then she ditched him, and the next time he saw her was at another wedding, where again they exchanged a few words before going back to her hotel together and having sex again -- in spite of the fact that she's engaged and went with her fiance to the wedding. And then after helping her pick out a wedding dress and hearing her litany of ex-lovers, he declares his love for her? It almost seems like the thing he loves about her is that he doesn't even have to try to get her in bed. I can't make myself see it as a tragic loss when she marries someone else, though I do feel sorry for her groom. It doesn't help that the structure of the movie, seeing these characters only at events surrounding weddings, means we don't get a sense for what her relationship is like. Her fiance serves purely as a temporary roadblock to the supposed One True Love, and we never know why she goes through with the wedding after hearing the declaration of love and seeming to reciprocate. Then there's the fact that even though she's been divorced for months, she shows up at the church on the morning of his wedding to tell him she's now available. That's just tacky. It puts him in an awkward position and sets his bride up for public humiliation. Just a day or two earlier, and they could have at least avoided having all this happen in front of a church full of people. I can't see Our Hero ending up with this inconsiderate bitch to be a happy ending.

Speaking of the ending, I remember it being a huge letdown when I first saw the movie, before I'd even noticed all the other problems. It's not just that I'm old-fashioned enough to want the couple to end up married. It's a story structure thing. If your premise is that a man attends a lot of weddings without ever getting married, himself, because he's a serial monogamist who can't quite commit, leaving a string of disappointed girlfriends behind him, then he pretty much has to end up getting married if we're to believe he's grown. Having the grand romantic declaration of a commitmentphobe be "will you not marry me?" doesn't really work.

I wanted him to end up with Fiona, the delightfully snarky friend harboring a secret crush on him. The enigmatic American could have proved to be a red herring, as he realizes that pursuing an unattainable woman is the ultimate sign of his commitment issues, and developing a friendship into something more that leads to commitment is scary but worthwhile. Seeing from the funeral what true love really means could easily have led to that.

I'd love a movie with the feel and tone of Four Weddings and a Funeral, but with a central relationship that I actually cheer for and an ending I like. (There is Love, Actually, but that to me is more a series of vignettes and not quite the same thing.)

It does seem from these movies like an enigmatic American woman, especially one with a southern accent, is like catnip to British men. I didn't quite experience that on my trips to England, though I was traveling alone on the first trip and didn't interact with that many people for them to know I was American, and on the second trip, I completely lost my voice, so you couldn't tell my accent from the hoarse whisper. I was also more in "hiking" mode than "glamour" mode on both trips. Maybe I should get myself invited to a wedding in the UK, where I can go be all glamorous and American and then see what happens.

Now I need to start checking the weather radar. I don't have any panels today at Mythcon, but there are some I might want to attend, as long as I don't have to drive through the daily torrential downpour to get there.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Repairs, Convention and Chick Flicks

Another fun day waiting for a service person to call or show up. This time, it's a window that needs replacing, and they have to come out and measure the glass, but I haven't heard a thing from them about what time. I don't think they have to come inside to do it, and it's pretty obvious which window it is, because it's the one that's so fogged up between the panes that it's opaque, but still, they are supposed to let me know, and I hate this sitting around, waiting for a call. This is also further proof that there seems to be some kind of financial balance equation in the universe. If I ever get extra money, unexpected expenses will suddenly arise to consume it. I got a big tax refund, mostly because I made almost no money last year and my estimated taxes were way overpaid, and I had plans for that money, to do some things that weren't crucial but would be nice. Then I had medical bills with this shoulder and now house repairs that have to be done or I'll be fined by the HOA.

I suppose I could look on the bright side and think of it as the money being provided just before it's needed, but I think I'd prefer not to have the hassle at all, even if it meant not getting the extra money. Now I'm kind of worried what might happen if they make the Enchanted, Inc. movie and I get that money. My house will probably collapse.

In other news, I'll be an author guest at Mythcon this weekend. That's a mostly academic conference about fantasy literature, especially that of the Inklings (CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, etc.) and transformative mythology (incorporating mythological elements into other stories). I was thinking of attending just to learn, but then they invited me to be on some panels. A few of the presentations sound pretty esoteric but rather interesting, and the Law of Convention Scheduling seems to be in place, in that all the things I most want to hear are scheduled opposite each other, while there are also slots in which there's nothing of interest. I have learned, however, that I seem to get the most out of those sessions where I didn't think I was interested in anything and just picked something at random. I think I may even join the society that puts on this convention because I think I could learn a lot about one of my subjects of interest. Maybe they'll have membership forms there.

I need to figure out what to wear, as this isn't a typical SF convention and seems to be more academic in nature. I doubt I'll need to bust out the suits, but I may dress in nice casual. I've been dressing up more for cons, anyway, because I figure that I spend most of my life in jeans and t-shirts, so I may as well use my nice clothes every so often. Plus, I've put a lot of work into my legs, so I may as well show them by wearing skirts. Otherwise, what's the point of all those ballet classes? Because there will be air conditioning, I probably won't be able to show off the arms and shoulders that are getting sculpted by all this physical therapy. At least I'm getting some benefit from all the therapy bills -- well, in addition to less pain and more mobility.

Finally, I'm suddenly in the mood for a good chick flick, and there don't seem to be a lot of options right now. I'll have to check IMDB to see if there's anything coming up. This could be, but isn't limited to, a romantic comedy, but I could also go for a nice Merchant-Ivory-style period piece. Just no sappy Nicholas Sparks-style "I meet my one true love and then one of us dies of cancer" type movies. Although the chick flicks haven't been big summer fare traditionally, in the past few years they've found that they can be successful providing female-friendly counterprogramming to the typical summer movie, but I guess Meryl Streep was busy when they were filming this summer's movies. I've almost been desperate enough to watch All About Steve on HBO.

Hmm, nothing that sounds like what I want is showing up on IMDB until maybe August when Eat, Pray, Love comes out, but I really don't like Julia Roberts, so I don't know if that will work for me. I may just swing by the nearby Blockbuster store that's going out of business and selling off its stock to see if they've dropped their prices even more. There were a couple of movies they seemed overstocked in that I might be willing to buy if they were a dollar or so cheaper. I'd never heard of them, but they intrigued me.

Ooh, just saw that the next Nanny McPhee movie is coming out in August, too, as well as some romantic comedies. I guess August is chick flick month. I do enjoy spaceships, car chases and explosions, but sometimes I'm in the mood for something different.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Revision: The Big Picture

I had the double-whammy of a doctor's appointment (checking on the progress of the shoulder) and physical therapy this morning, so I'm getting a late start to the day.

For the next few writing posts, I thought I'd tackle the subject of revisions, since that's the stage I'm currently on in a book and I've received a lot of questions about it. My process is what works for me. None of this is a set-in-stone rule about what you must do. These are things to try and see how they work for you.

I think I do the bulk of the work on a book in the rewrite phase. No matter how carefully I plot a novel, I don't seem to know what the book is really about until I've written it, and then I have to reshape it to make it be what it's supposed to be. I generally do a fairly fast first draft and then revise all at once, though if I come up with an idea while writing that affects the earlier part of the book or that needs to be set up, then I will go back and fix it. I just don't worry too much about tinkering with words until I'm done.

The first thing I do when I finish a first draft is look at the big picture. Well, actually, the first thing I do is take a few days off. I think it's important to let a book rest a while. You wrote it the way you wrote it because that's what made sense to you at the time, and if you tackle revisions while you're still in the same mindset, that will still be what makes sense to you. A little distance helps give you a more objective perspective on the work. I generally have multiple projects at various phases going on, so I can force myself to switch mental gears and think of something else between phases. I may take a week or so to research, brainstorm or plot another project. If you're on deadline you may not have the luxury of taking that kind of time, but when I have a deadline, I try to plan my work so I can take a mental break between phases.

Then, I'll look at the big picture. The main concern here is whether the story works. I try writing what I think should be the cover copy for the book, then I think about whether what I've written really fits the book. Am I playing up something that's relatively minor because I think it sounds interesting and would help sell the book? Am I leaving out something I've devoted a lot of time to in the book? I think the exercise of writing the cover copy is a great way to force yourself to think of what is most interesting and appealing about the story. Those are the elements you should focus on as you revise.

To refresh myself on the book, I usually go through the manuscript with a notepad handy and chart each scene. I'll write a one-sentence description of the main action in the scene ("The heroine arrives at the eerie estate and meets the creepy housekeeper"), then list who the protagonist of the scene is (the heroine), what the protagonist's goal is (to meet her new employer before she commits to staying at this remote place), and what the conflict is (the creepy housekeeper is stalling, and the coach is about to leave). From there, it's easy to see how the story flows. You can generally get a sense of cause and effect from what the characters are trying to do and what's stopping them. I'll sometimes write a plot outline based on this analysis, and that's where the plot holes show up. You can see if someone does something without a reason or if something happens and none of the characters really react to it.

Another thing I might do in checking the overall plot is to revisit my character development. With the benefit of having written the book, I may work through some of the same exercises I do to develop characters before I write the book, but answering based on what's really there as opposed to what I want to be there. Sometimes it's the same, but there have been times when I realize that there was something about a character I really wanted to convey but that never showed up, or a character took a different direction that's working better, but the change isn't coming through in the plot. This can also show me when any major plot events depend on a character doing something out of character.

This is when a beta reader or critique partner can come in handy -- give the manuscript to someone you trust and let that person ask questions. That's a good way to discover if there's something that only makes sense to you because you know the background. Another person may ask something like "Why did he do that?" or "Why didn't he just _____?" when you can't see that for yourself.

That scene-by-scene outline is also good for what I call "major surgery." It's the chainsaw stage of revising. That's when I cut out huge chunks of the book -- often to make room for new stuff that needs to be added or scenes that need to be fleshed out. If there are multiple scenes that look more or less the same in the outline -- same character has the same goal and the same conflicts or obstacles -- then some of those scenes can usually go or be combined. If I can't think of what the goal or conflict is in a scene, I have to figure out why it's in the book and see if there's a way to put the important parts in another scene or rewrite the scene to include a goal and conflict.

After doing all this analysis, I'll write a revised plot outline of the way the book should go, and then I'll make a list of the major changes that need to be made in order to make the book be that way. I'll figure out which scenes need to be cut, which scenes need to be moved or combined, which scenes need to be rewritten and which scenes need to be added. The second draft is when I do all this work, as well as working on the transitions to make all this flow together.

Next: The third draft -- medium-grit sandpaper.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Book Report: Regency Fantasy

I have proper cable again! It turns out that they didn't activate the box properly, and the person on the phone Saturday should have been able to take care of it. The guy was barely in my house long enough to laugh about Comedy Central on CSPAN, then he hit a button on the gizmo he carried, and it was all set right. I did learn that my ongoing OnDemand issues aren't just me, that they're having serious server problems and have been since December.

And I got the cable back just in time because tonight is the season premiere of Warehouse 13. It looks like the Sci Fi channel (I refuse to acknowledge their silly name change) is marathoning the end of the season leading up to the premiere, and most of the continuity stuff only came up at the end of the season, so if you want to jump in, this is a good chance. This is a fun, quirky show, sort of a lighter X-Files meets Raiders of the Lost Ark vibe. I think the tone is along the lines of my books, with some humor, maybe a little satire, some action and likable characters.

I mentioned last week that I hadn't had any books to report on. Well, over the weekend I read Sorcery & Cecelia by Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer, which I believe was a recommendation from a blog reader, and I LOVED it. I must now find the sequel. This is a Regency fantasy -- pretty much what you'd get if Georgette Heyer wrote fantasy (though I think the writing style and tone is more similar to Marion Chesney, who wrote a lot of Regencies in the 70s and 80s). It has all the elements of a classic Regency romance, but with added magic. The story is told through letters exchanged between cousins. One went to London for the Season and the other stayed behind in the country. Strange things are afoot in both places, as there's a girl who seems unusually attractive to every man around and her stepmother who will stop at nothing to ensure that her stepdaughter marries the right man -- and it has nothing to do with just snagging a rich husband. There's a mysterious marquis, the genial neighborhood wizard and a suspicious young man who's always lurking about in bushes.

What's really fun is the story of how the book came about. It started as a game between the two authors. They wrote letters to each other in character, creating the story as they went along and responded to things in previous letters. There was no planning or plotting. When they were done and reread all the letters together, they realized it would make a good book, and then they edited it to trim the extraneous stuff and tighten the plot a bit. That sounds like it might be a fun game to play.

The book was published as young adult, probably mostly because of the publishing track record of the authors involved (they were probably already under contract to the YA house), and I found it in the teen section of the library. But it reads just like any other Regency, and there's nothing very "teen" about it. The heroines of Regency romances are often in their teens, but I don't even recall any ages being mentioned for these characters.

I now may have to make another library trip because the other novel I got seems to be all about tragic pettiness. I guess that's why I like genre fiction (this is one of those quasi-literary book club type books). If I'm going to read something tragic, I want it to be on a big scale -- death, the downfall of kingdoms, noble sacrifice for the greater good, etc. I'm not as big on reading about an ordinary life taking a gradual downward turn because the people around that person are petty, prejudiced and selfish.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Mixed Signals

After criticizing myself for procrastinating so much, I have realized another reason why I tend to put things off. Sometimes, things turn out to be just as unpleasant to deal with as I feared.

Take my cable situation. I got the new box all set up, and it worked fine for watching the news and Friday Night Lights. Finally, I could watch an entire program without losing the picture or having the picture distorted. I didn't check for any of the other channels, though. Then Saturday morning, I was in the mood for cartoons, and I've recently been hooked on Phineas and Ferb on the Disney Channel (it's delightfully geeky). The Disney Channel scheduling is rather odd, though, as the schedule that's published in the newspaper TV listings has very little to do with what's actually showing, and even the digital channel guide on the cable system doesn't match what they're actually showing. But the newspaper said an episode would be on at 10, so I turned on the TV and switched to the Disney Channel.

What I saw was a scantily clothed woman writhing around a pole. I thought, "I know Miley Cyrus is trying to change her image, but this is ridiculous." Then I saw Dr. House ogling the dancer, and then the "info" bar at the bottom of the screen went away, revealing the USA Network logo. Mind you, the info bar did say that this was the Disney Channel. So I went to the USA channel, and it just said "This channel is not available at this time." It turned out that I wasn't getting most of the cable channels, and the ones I was getting were all in the wrong places. The Style Network was on the Turner Classic Movies channel. MTV was showing up on the Speed Channel. ESPN was on WGN. The funniest switch, though, was that Comedy Central was showing on CSPAN. That's oddly appropriate. The on-screen guide would say something about discussion of issues of the day, but what was showing was some guy on a stage telling jokes.

I tried rebooting the box, and it was still doing all this, so I called tech support. The service rep (who was awesome and funny) sent a signal to my box, and I started getting my HBO channels, but the others were still all mixed up. She was located in my city and was on the same cable system, so she went to her office TV, and we went up and down the channels together, comparing what we were seeing. They had not rearranged the channels. It was just me. I was still getting the right channels in the right places when I bypassed the converter box. It was just the box that was all mixed up.

So now I've got what I was trying to avoid, one of those "between this and that time" cable service appointments. I'd thought that getting the box myself would mean not having to deal with that, but now I still have to. At least I'll know by the time the service guy leaves that I'll have proper service. I hope it's that Miller High Life guy I had last time because he was cool (he reminded me of the guy on the beer commercials who goes around confiscating beer from snooty people who aren't properly living the high life). Because of the holiday, they can't get someone out until tomorrow, so I'm having to adapt. It was weird watching an NCIS marathon yesterday on the Disney Channel.

My Independence Day weekend festivities got rained out (my town did fireworks on Saturday, and they did still have them, but it was raining at the time we would have needed to go, so we stayed home and watched Independence Day). Wouldn't you know, it was nice on the day they weren't having fireworks. But I still had barbecue and pie, and there were fireworks on TV (on a station that was on the right channel).

Friday, July 02, 2010


I slowed down on my progress yesterday, mostly because there's a character who's not working the way I want him to work, and that makes the scenes with him not work quite right. He seems so clear in my head, but that isn't making it to the page. This is important because if I do it right, he'll be the source of much of the humor in the book, and I suspect he'll also be a lot of what the fangirls would get excited about. I have a kind of model for this character from somewhere else (and what's weird is that I already had this character worked out and had written much of the book before the "model" character showed up, so I didn't base my character on this other character. Instead it was more a case of, "Hey, that's my guy! Now I can study him and think of things he can do and ways I can describe his mannerisms!"). I figured out last night, though, that there are some distinct differences, so my "model" isn't quite as good as I thought it was.

And now it's shameful confession time. I have to admit that I am a world-champion procrastinator. It's not just about delaying getting to work. It's about just about everything. An item usually lives on my to-do list for days or even weeks before I take care of it. A lot of the time, the only reason something gets done is that there's an externally imposed deadline. Even things that shouldn't be unpleasant and that will benefit me when they're done get put off.

For instance, dealing with my cable service. Ever since September of last year, my cable convertor box has been glitchy. Every so often, the picture will break up, then go black, and then come back. Occasionally, when it comes back it will be all distorted, like it's stretched from side to side. Sometimes, it's already distorted when I turn the TV on. At first I thought the picture loss was a problem with the cable signal, and for a while I thought the distortion was because the stations were trying to avoid letterboxing and were blowing up the widescreen picture to full-screen. Then I discovered that none of these things happened when I bypassed the cable box. I've also had problems accessing some of the OnDemand stuff, but I can't test whether that's coming from the server or the box.

And yet, I've done nothing about it, all this time. I kept putting off calling the cable company, and then I found that I could take the box to one of their offices and trade it for a new one instead of calling and playing "wait for the cable guy." I live between two of their offices, each about a ten-minute drive. One of their offices is practically on my way home from physical therapy. But I just kept putting it off and putting it off. Today, though, on my way home I went to swap out the box. I was thinking I could get an HD box, since Kurt's dad from Glee tells us at least three times an hour that TimeWarner is better than other options because HD is no extra charge, but it turns out that because I get my cable service through my homeowners association, there is an extra fee to get an HD box. I figured that it wasn't worth the extra money, since in a little more than a year it would pay for a Blu-Ray player, and then I could watch the things I care about in HD.

So now, nine months later, I've finally done something about a technical problem that was driving me nuts. I'm still letting the box set itself up, so I don't know if this will resolve the glitch.

I think one reason behind some of my procrastination is that I have grand future plans, and I figure that I shouldn't bother doing something now that will be re-done or undone later. That's why I let my house get so messy earlier this year. I had this grand plan to do a major unclutter and sort project, so why put things away in what would end up being the wrong place when I was going to redo it all anyway? With the cable box, I'd been thinking about maybe one day getting the box with a DVR and stop messing with tapes, but my financial situation isn't such that I want to take on additional monthly expenses now. I was waiting until something happened to make that more feasible, and why bother swapping out the box now when I'd be getting something different later? I have to convince myself that being happy now is just as important as that mythical "someday."

As for everything else, I have no idea why I put off stupid little things. I guess I just get into "don't want to deal with it" mode and have to be forced out of it.