Friday, September 28, 2012

Still More Fall TV

Oh my goodness, I have a book coming out Monday! I sort of missed September due to illness, so now I'm realizing how much I need to get done, like adding book 6 to the web site. I must be getting better because last night I was making a list of things to do, and I actually want to do them. It's supposed to be rainy tomorrow, so it will be a good day for drinking tea and doing writerly things.

I gave two new fall shows a shot last night, and I liked both of them. I hadn't been planning to watch Last Resort, but the buzz was good, there was nothing I cared to watch on opposite it, and I didn't feel like doing anything else. It reminded me of good Tom Clancy, from back in the Red October days before he became a franchise. The gist of the story is that a US submarine in the Indian Ocean gets an order to fire nuclear missiles at Pakistan -- but the order comes through the channels that would only come into play if Washington had been wiped out, and yet it seems like it's business as usual there. When the captain asks for the order to be confirmed through the more usual, official channels, a nearby US ship fires on the submarine. The sub and its crew take refuge on an island that hosts a UN listening station and a shady crime boss. Meanwhile in Washington, the public is being told that Pakistan fired on and sank the sub, and there are hints of some kind of conspiracy involving a president who's about to be impeached. I suspect that this plot might be better served in a movie or miniseries because dragging it out through an open-ended US television series might get old fast, but I found the pilot to be rather gripping. There are a lot of interesting "what ifs" in play. There's a huge cast of characters, but only a few in the pilot stood out. I'll be curious to see how they're developed on an ongoing basis. If this one is available OnDemand, I may shift it to another slot, though, because I'm not in the mood on Thursdays for something that intense, and there's a serious mental shift from this to The Office.

Then there was Elementary, the new Sherlock Holmes series, and I found myself enjoying it a lot. I've never been a huge Holmes buff, so I don't notice or care when they get it "wrong." For the most part, it's another CBS procedural (which is "comfort food" TV), but I like the characters and their relationship. In this version, Holmes is living in New York after getting out of rehab, and his father has hired Joan Watson, a former surgeon, to be a kind of sobriety accountability partner (babysitter) to him. What I enjoy about this version is that the partnership seems more even rather than Watson being mostly an audience surrogate to marvel at Holmes's brilliance. Her strengths mesh well with his weaknesses, and she's not at all in awe of him. Meanwhile, he's a little impressed by how well she takes to detective work when she's dragged into his case because she has to monitor him 24/7. This is less witty fun than the British modernization Sherlock, but there are some things I think it does better. Again, though, I may move this to OnDemand if that's available, depending on the mood I'm in.

But tonight starts the best Friday night of TV since maybe the fall of 2005 when SyFy had the lineup of Firefly reruns, one of the Stargates, Battlestar Galactica and Doctor Who. We get the cross-network double feature of Grimm and Haven, which fit deliciously well together. It's paranormal procedural night, as well as being Night of the Dark-Haired, Blue-Eyed Lawmen.

Since they premiered around the same time and both were built on fairy-tale themes, Grimm and Once Upon a Time were often compared. I don't think the two series are anything alike, but they do form two ends of a triangle if you connect them through Haven. Haven may not have any outright fairy tale elements -- there's no Cinderella here -- but it does use some tropes and themes that come up in fairy tales, like the town under a curse, secret identities, people sent to break curses without knowing all the facts, etc. I went through the triangle pretty well on a panel at WorldCon, then less successfully at FenCon (thanks to Benadryl), but I'll try to recreate it here.

Let's start on the Grimm end. Both Grimm and Haven are paranormal procedurals that have a case of the week format fit into a big-picture arc. In both series, the main character has a particular gift that allows him/her to recognize and deal with the paranormal stuff that's going on. He/she has the ability to see the reality even when others are seeing something else. In both cases, the main character appears to be a key figure in a greater struggle, and that puts him/her in danger, even though he/she hasn't figured out everything that's going on yet.

But then we bridge over to Once Upon a Time, and though Haven and Once Upon a Time seem nothing alike on the surface, think about the set-up: Both shows are about a snarky blonde with a mysterious past working in law enforcement who goes from Boston to a small coastal town in Maine, where she learns that this town may hold the key to her mysterious past, the town seems to be under some kind of curse, she's immune to the effects of the curse, and she may be the key to breaking the curse for good, which puts her in danger from those who don't want the curse broken. Oh, and in both shows, she becomes a local cop. Only Haven is the Stephen King version of the story instead of the Disney version.

So, tonight is going to be spooky sofa time. I think I'm going to make a pizza and maybe even create some atmosphere by lighting some candles and turning out the lights, and that's something I don't think I've done since the glory days of the X-Files.

And then this weekend, we get the last adventure of Amy and Rory with the Doctor. I'm so very sad. I'll miss Rory. The thing that's cool about that character is that he was an everyman who turned out to be extraordinary, but who never lost that everyman quality. I think he always had the potential -- even at the beginning, he was the one who'd figured out that something was going on and was gathering evidence -- but then there were all the deaths, the two thousand years as a Centurion, and lots of heroics, and yet he was still the Best Friend everyman kind of guy.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Life Skills and Bruises

I've already accomplished a great deal today. I managed to repair a toilet by replacing the fill valve. There were a few complications, and I've amassed some really impressive bruises where my arm hit the side of the tank while working, so I'll be wearing long sleeves in public for a while. It looks like someone grabbed my arm hard, and if I had a significant other, people might be calling the cops on him. But I have added one more life skill to my skill set. And I've finally done some grocery shopping. Tonight I plan to make a vat of vegetable soup and see if that does the trick for the last bit of healing I need to do. I discovered last night that one sure way to set off a massive coughing fit is to raise my voice at insane kindergarteners after trying to sing and dance with them. They were just plain crazy last night, and dealing with them wore me out entirely. I sat with the parents of my teen helper at dinner, and she came up to them looking utterly shellshocked and said, "They were insane tonight. I don't know what their deal was." I told them they'd been drinking Silly Juice.

I went to the grocery store with the really strange staff and had the strangest bagger. I think he's the guy who once asked me in the parking lot if I could see him when he wasn't wearing his orange safety vest. Today, it's rather warm, and his way of saying farewell to me was to tell me not to freeze out there. The checker was of some Eastern European origin, and it seemed like her way of calling me "miss" was to call me "little girl." It took me aback at first, but then I noticed her accent and her nametag and I figured out what she was trying to say and found it rather charming.

My real joy of the day was that the French bread had just come out of the oven, and it was still warm. I had to nibble a bit on the way home before it cooled off.

And now I've realized that I did my usual shopping of buying "ingredients," and I still don't have anything quick and easy to make. But the soup will last me for days, and I think I'm going to make a pesto and roasted red pepper pizza tomorrow night. If I get really desperate, I can go to the Indian market and get some kind of curry sauce to go with chicken. Or I could get a takeout curry from one of the nearby restaurants.

Now I may actually get some writing done this afternoon, since my morning exertions (and the holdover from last night's exertions) have left me too tired to do much else.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Character Dimensions: Relationships

I've learned that I need to run any errands first thing in the morning while I have energy. After that, forget about it. I was a little optimistic in hoping to make it to ballet. By the evening, I didn't have the energy, and I was in bed, asleep, before the time I would have come home from ballet. I am getting better, but it's a frustratingly slow process. I'm good at delayed gratification and can be patient while waiting for something I'm anticipating, but waiting to get well is a totally different thing.

In my writing posts, I'm talking about character dimensions that are important to consider in characterization but that tend to be neglected unless they're part of the plot. Previously, I tackled finances. Now I'll look at relationships, and this isn't just something you need to know for a romance novel. How a character interacts with the other people in his or her life tells you a lot about that person and can influence the way the story develops. And yet I sometimes get the feeling that authors don't think much about it other than in developing a romantic history when a romance is part of the plot -- and then way too often it's of the "his last lover betrayed him, so he will never trust women again" variety.

Here are some things to think about when it comes to your character and relationships:

Does he make friends easily or does someone else have to make most of the effort? Does he have a wide circle of friends or a small circle of very close friends? How long has he known his current close friends? Are they friends from childhood? From his teens? From college? Or did he meet them more recently? Is he still in touch with any friends from his past, or is he the sort of person who makes a fresh start at new stages in his life? Is he open to making new friends, or is he satisfied with the friends he already has? Does he become friends with co-workers, or does he separate his work and personal lives?

How does she communicate with friends? Text messages, talking on the phone, Facebook, e-mail? How often do they get together in person, and what do they do?

What is the character's romantic history? A few longer-term serious relationships or a lot of short-term flings? How did she meet her past lovers? Does he dive head-first into a relationship or ease cautiously into it? How did past relationships end? Can she stay friends with her exes or is a breakup a blowup that severs ties for good? Was she the dumper or dumpee? Has he been hurt before, and in what ways? Does she have any fond memories of past relationships, even if they ended badly?

What are the character's romantic hopes? Does she want to get married and have kids or not? Soon, or sometime in the distant future? Can she imagine being alone, or does she tend to jump right into another relationship?

How does sex work for this character? Can she separate sex from love, or is love essential for sex? Is she shy about it or more assertive? How committed does a relationship need to be before she has sex, and how far is she willing to go before that point? Are there any beliefs or attitudes from other aspects of his or her life, like religion, that affect decisions about sex?

All of these attitudes about relationships will affect the way a character interacts with other people -- how he approaches others or reacts to others, what his support network is like, who'd notice if he went missing, how he reacts to a person he finds attractive, how he reacts if someone else finds him attractive, etc., and if you've thought about it before you write, then these interactions will be more consistent for the character and more authentic.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Phineas & Ferb and Mad Scientists

I didn't quite get the perfect healing sleep that allowed me to wake up 100 percent better, but I think I came pretty close. There's still some coughing, but it's not nearly as bad. I may even try to go to ballet tonight. I doubt I'll make it through center because jumping and turning are probably out of my range right now, but just getting through barre would probably be good for me in helping rebuild my strength. The real trick will be getting well enough to go back to writing. Maybe today, but I do have some errands to run. Like, I have no food in the house. I also still have relatively little appetite, but I think it would be a good idea to stock up on produce and resume cooking.

I spent much of yesterday lying on the sofa and watching Phineas & Ferb. We had a fun panel about this at FenCon, and they just happened to have on some of the episodes we discussed in the panel. The blog called this the best science fiction show currently on television, and I have to say that it kind of is (since there's a severe shortage of good science fiction on television at the moment -- most of the good stuff is more on the lines of paranormal or fantasy). For those who haven't yet discovered this Disney Channel gem, it's a cartoon about two stepbrothers who have decided they don't want to waste a moment of summer vacation. When it comes time to write that "what I did this summer" essay, they want to have something to say. And so every day they set out to do something really cool. It helps that they're mechanical geniuses, so they can do outrageous stuff like building a massive roller coaster that starts in their backyard and goes all over town, creating nanobots that can transform into anything, repairing crashed spaceships, turning their house into a carnival fun house, building shrink rays, etc. Their teenage sister is horrified by how dangerous the stuff they're doing is and is constantly trying to prove it to their oblivious mother (in between trying to flirt with the cute boy she likes and avoiding his evil baby sister). And meanwhile there's an evil scientist in town who keeps coming up with schemes to take over the Tri-State Area, using his own crazy devices ("inators"), and the boys' pet platypus is a secret agent assigned to stop him. Usually the latest evil scheme somehow ends up canceling out whatever crazy thing the boys built before they get caught. Plus, there's always at least one musical number. Yes, it sounds crazy, but it's this hilarious spoof of the mad scientist movies and spy movies, with cultural references that would go way over kids' heads flying fast and furiously. Some kids might catch all the subtle Star Wars homages, but then there's the obnoxiously perky killer robot that has a cow skull land on his head and then he chirps, "Check me out! I'm a Georgia O'Keefe painting!" Or there's the "Nostradamus was right!" running gag.

It occurred to me yesterday while I was lying on the sofa in a Benadryl haze that the real crux of the series is that in a town that actually has an organization of mad scientists and another organization of secret agents dedicated to stopping them, the most successful mad scientists are the two boys, and they fly under the radar both because they're just kids and because their motives are so pure. They just want to have a good time and to give their friends a good time. They aren't out to take over anything, they have no scores to settle, nothing they want to prove. They aren't even trying to hide what they're doing. When their sister threatens to tell their mom, they're okay with that. They're proud of what they've done and want their mother to see it. They have nothing to do with the fact that the evidence always seems to disappear. If those two boys ever did turn evil, they'd be formidable because their stuff works -- and, in fact, the plot of the movie-length episode they did last year hinged on the boys discovering the evil scientist's latest inator and unwittingly helping his evil scheme by fixing what was wrong with it (the whole thing was wired through the self-destruct button). So, I think at some point they're going to have to do an episode that shows what would happen if Phineas & Ferb were evil.

I think part of the addictive nature of the series comes from how densely layered it is and how it's built to reward repeat viewing. There's continuity, but not in the sense that you have to start watching at a certain point or watch episodes in order. You can start anywhere, but the more episodes you've seen, the funnier it becomes because of all the callbacks and running gags, and then the next time you see an episode, it takes on a different meaning after you've seen other episodes and understand more of the references, callbacks and running gags.

So, I think that's some of the reason why my whole group of friends is utterly addicted to this kids' show. The nice thing is, the fact that I recognize Perry the Platypus t-shirts and can intelligently discuss the show makes the kids I work with think I'm incredibly cool.

Monday, September 24, 2012

CoughCon Aftermath

I survived FenCon. I did have a good time, though it wasn't the typical convention experience at all. I mostly helped with the staff lounge, emerging when I had programming. That meant that my trying to rest and take it easy was actually useful. We had a few bursts of activity when we had to put together sack lunches for the staff members who couldn't leave their posts, but otherwise I just needed to sit in there to keep the room open or I monitored the radio in case we got calls from elsewhere.

So, what it boiled down to was hanging out with my friends and occasionally emerging to talk about geeky stuff, which isn't a bad way to spend a weekend. I just know that there are friends I only see at conventions that I didn't get a chance to catch up with, and that's sad, but I definitely wasn't at my best. As I kept saying to people expressing concern, this actually was dramatically better than I was a week earlier. The fever was gone and the infection was gone. The cough was more throat-clearing than lung-clearing. But now I'm very, very tired and I think I'm going to spend today resting. I have this idea in my head that if I could manage to get the right amount of the right kind of sleep, I'd wake up feeling entirely well. So far, that kind of sleep has eluded me, but I will keep trying.

One thing I do need to do today is rewatch the season premiere of Haven. I watched it, but the antihistamines were kicking in, so at this point I'm not sure what was really in the episode and what I dreamed was in it after watching it. I did watch Doctor Who, and I'm already sad that we have only one more episode with Amy and Rory. There seems to be so much untapped story potential with those characters. I think I'd be less sad about them leaving if they'd really used all the potential. Adding Rory's dad near the end doesn't help because now I also love him and want to see more of him and his sort of support staff role. And I want to know just how much he really knows now that he's in on the secret. Does he know the whole story? Does he know that his son has 2,000 years worth of memories or that he has a granddaughter who's a time-traveling archaeologist?

I have some blog post fodder from some of my panels, and let's hope that I get that magical healing sleep today so I can think clearly enough to write those posts.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Preparing for CoughCon

My crazy con weekend is about to begin. I'll be at FenCon all weekend, though I suspect this will be a low-key convention for me because I still don't have a lot of stamina. The cough isn't nearly as bad, and I finish the antibiotics tonight (thank goodness, because the weird metallic taste they cause is driving me nuts), but I'm definitely not my usual perky self, and I may not be around much when I'm not on programming.

Right now, I'm listening to the marathon of season 2 of Haven while doing my usual morning work stuff. I'll either watch the season premiere when I get home tonight or when I get up in the morning. And then I won't be able to talk about it all weekend because no one else I'm around will have seen it. I'll be torn between wanting to tell all and wanting to sing out, "Spoilers!" like River Song on Doctor Who.

This weekend's panels will include one on TV shows that were cancelled too soon, Doctor Who, fairy tale themes in current entertainment, and Phineas & Ferb. I'll also be doing a reading, probably an excerpt from Much Ado. My reading is Sunday morning, and by then, I hope the cough will be gone enough that I can read. Then again, I can seldom do good readings at FenCon because it tends to be RagweedCon for me. Coughing is only slightly different from sneezing when it comes to enhancing a performance. Someday, I'll be healthy and well-rested before this convention. I think I started a bad trend when I went through my first FenCon sleep-deprived after my whirlwind trip to the Serenity premiere. I'm amazed that they wanted me back.

And now I think I need a mid-morning nap to recharge myself for this afternoon and evening.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Paying for Reviews?

I finally feel like I'm really on the mend. I took the cough syrup at about 7, as soon as I got home from children's choir and dinner, watched the Phineas & Ferb movie on the Disney Channel, then was in bed shortly after nine. Then I slept the clock around and woke up feeling better than I have in ages. I'm barely even coughing today. Of course, as soon as I wrote that, I coughed.  But still, no coughing fits, and I can breathe deeply without coughing. It's amazing what twelve hours of sleep can do for you.

One of the big controversies going on in the book world lately has been about paid reviews. There was apparently a service that would provide a certain number of Amazon "reader" reviews for a title, since supposedly you move up in the rankings or get more exposure with more reviews. Then there were the revelations about authors making up fake names to leave positive reviews for their own books and negative reviews about their competitors. In the wake of that, people are now claiming that they won't believe any five-star reviews, and if a book just has positive reviews, then they'll know they were all bought and it's probably a terrible book.

To that I have to say, whoa, chill. I didn't even realize you could buy reviews, wouldn't know where to turn to buy them, and am too cheap to spend money on reviews. And yet the reviews for Much Ado About Magic are positive enough that I suppose to some people they might look bought. The most I've done to solicit reviews has been to make a general suggestion that you leave a review if you've read the book. It seems kind of silly to just assume that any book with a lot of reviews must be a bad book that had to pay for reviews. It might just be a good book. In my case, this late in the series and with this book not having massive exposure, only the diehard fans are probably reading it, so of course the reviews are going to be good, unless I totally mess up the book in a way that the fans hate.

I'm not sure how to figure out which is which, though. I would imagine that reviews written by real readers might have more specifics about what they liked or didn't like. The people who wrote the paid reviews generally hadn't read the book and were just making up something based on the cover copy. You could also track other reviews by those reviewers and see which books they reviewed and how those reviews sound.

And now I'm off to deal with a busy convention weekend.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Cell Phones and Fantasy

I am attempting to function today without the scary cough syrup. My brain is clearer, but there's still some coughing. I'm really sick of being sick. I am, however, enough on the mend to tackle the laundry that I let get totally out of control. Now I just need to do dishes, put together a lesson plan for choir tonight and bake some cookies.

I opened the floor for questions about the Enchanted, Inc. series, and here's the first. I think I've addressed one like it recently, but I'll take it again:

Why doesn't Katie have a cell phone? As somebody who just left her 20s and with most of my friends in their 20s still, I cannot imagine living without my phone. I know Katie is pretty technically challenged, but even my most technologically inept friends have phones. I understand not having the latest and greatest smartphone, but why not at least a regular one?

The short answer is that it's a character trait. The fact that most people do something doesn't mean that everyone does, so it is still possible to have people out of the mainstream. Getting deeper into the whys, first of all, I mentally set the series in 2005-2006. The first book takes place in September through early November of 2005, the second in November through mid-December of that year, the third one mid-December through just after New Year's 2006, the fourth in April/May of 2006 and the fifth in May/June of 2006. When I was writing the first one, I assumed that if it got published, it would be in 2005, so I used 2005 calendars to keep the events and days straight, and then I've continued with that, trying to keep it consistent on that timeline. It was a little easier at first, since the first two books were in the future for me, and I wrote the first draft of the third book at almost exactly the time it was taking place. You don't have to read them with that in mind because I don't think there's anything that specifically dates them, but when I'm judging what technology to use and what pop culture to reference, I'm trying to keep out anything that isn't consistent with that timeline.

That means that while cell phones were pretty ubiquitous at that time, they weren't quite the "pry it out of my cold, dead hands" thing they are now. The first iPhone was released in 2007. So, if you keep this timeline in mind, it's less shocking that a twenty-something person could live without a cell phone.

Getting specific to Katie, one of her traits is practicality, which often comes through as frugality. She really struggled financially her first year in New York, and although her situation has improved, she still hasn't shaken off that mindset of saving every penny. If she was either at home or at work or out with the people who'd be calling her, she wouldn't pay all that money every month for a cell phone she'd never use. Even now, she's usually either with the people who'd be calling her or with someone who has a phone, so she hasn't really bothered with it, and it's become something of a stubborn resistance. I'll admit that's based a bit on myself. I cringe when I pay my cell bill every month, since my phone mostly lives at the bottom of my purse. It seems like such a waste of money. When I got my first cell phone, I was doing PR for a cell phone company, and I was still resisting. I came to work one morning to find a phone on my desk chair (a not-so-subtle message from my boss), and then a co-worker drove me to the AT&T store to activate it. When/if Katie gets a phone, I imagine it will be a gift from someone who's tired of her not having a phone.

What's funny is that I don't think I've really used this in a plot. Cell phones have made plotting suspense things more challenging because there's that constant connectedness and access to information. If you want to keep someone in the dark about information someone else has, you have to come up with something like a dead battery or a dead spot in coverage. A character who avoids having a cell phone would be ideal for that, but I don't think I've ever used her being out of touch as a way to build suspense. When she's needed a phone, she's always been with someone who had one.

In book six, there is an actual discussion about her lack of a cell phone. People do comment on it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Much Ado in Print!

The big news of the day is that the print version of Much Ado About Magic is now available. Here's the direct link. It may be a few days before it shows up connected to the Amazon listing. I have a copy, and it's a really nice book. It's a bit bigger than the previous books in the series, so it won't match your collection perfectly on the bookcase (sorry), but I think it's a higher-quality book. The paper stock seems nicer and the printing seems crisper.

A while ago (months? years? I've lost track of time), I was doing an every-other-week feature of answering questions about the series. Now that the new book is out and the next one is coming, it's probably a good time to start that again. So, if you have questions you want me to tackle, ask away! No spoilers, please. Awareness of the new books is trickling out, and I don't want anyone accidentally spoiled by a question that gives away anything major. I know, it's really hard to talk about this book without spoiling it. In fact, I can't find an excerpt from the next book to use for a reading because the whole book is a major spoiler for the previous book.

I have seen one review in which the reviewer hadn't read any of the previous books in the series and still got into it, which is nice to know.

I seem to be on the mend, but I'm giving myself one more sick day. The cough is still pretty nasty (though not as bad as it was) without the scary cough syrup. But I think one more day to rest will help me feel better faster. I ended up falling asleep on the sofa yesterday afternoon, and it was a nice little nap. I recall a bit of a dream in which the Doctor (from Doctor Who) somehow found Warehouse 13 (I fell asleep while watching Warehouse 13 OnDemand). Now I wish I could remember what happened because there's all sorts of potential there.

One reason I have to get better is I'm running out of stuff to watch. I'm caught up with everything I usually watch, and I've even marathoned rewatches of the stuff I really like. I may have to break out the DVDs, but that involves getting off the sofa and changing discs. I don't really have the attention span for an entire movie right now, so TV episodes are perfect, and if I've seen them, it doesn't matter if I zone out from time to time.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Sometimes You Need a Doctor

After going way too long trying to convince myself that I was getting better, I finally admitted to myself that I wasn't and dragged myself to the doctor. The diagnosis was acute bronchitis, but it was apparently bad enough that they did a chest X-ray to rule out pneumonia. They gave me a steroid shot to ease the inflammation in the airways, and then put me on a powerful antibiotic and gave me some killer cough syrup. I'm already feeling better, but as I learned when I let the cough syrup wear off so I could run a couple of essential errands this morning, I'm still not well.

I went to one of those CareNow places that I generally consider "doc in the box," but I have to say that this was the best medical care I've received in years. One of the reasons I get stubborn and try to tough it out is that most of the time, even though I only go to the doctor when it's absolutely essential, they still seem to treat me like I'm a hypochondriac, like it's all in my head and I'm a real weenie for not being able to tough it out. They're very patronizing and condescending, and I feel like I could have buzzards circling overhead and an undertaker with a tape measure following me around, and they'd still act like I was wasting their time with something trivial. But these people were all great. They took me seriously, listened to me and treated me like I had a brain. It helped that the doctor turned out to be a science fiction fan. He asked if I might have been exposed to anything recently, and I told him I'd been at WorldCon, so I'd probably been exposed to a lot of things. So we chatted a bit about science fiction. He's a big Douglas Adams fan and was impressed that I know Alan Dean Foster. With the X-ray, it seems I have very photogenic lungs. The tech was in awe, saying she'd never seen a real-life X-ray that looked that much like the illustrations in the textbook. It was a perfect image, just the way it's supposed to look. I suspect it helps that I don't have a lot of extra flesh to blur anything on the upper body, I have good posture, and I'm a singer, so when they tell me to take a deep breath to expand the rib cage, they get a really deep breath that really expands the ribs all over. And then they called me the next day to see how I was doing, to see if I had any questions and to remind me that even if I'm feeling better, I need to finish all the antibiotics. Now that I know they're good at this place, I may be more likely to go to a doctor next time I get sick because I have a place to go that I like. I also got a clean bill of health, aside from the bronchitis, since my blood pressure and pulse were good, my heart sounded good, my lungs look clear and my weight is just right. That was one reason they took the illness so seriously, that it was wrong for someone this healthy to be this sick.

The cough syrup is interesting, though. It's one of those "you know you're a writer when" things because I'm noting how it affects me so I can use this when I need to have a character who's been drugged or under a spell. It makes me woozy, but it doesn't really knock me out. I can stay awake all day. I'm just not entirely functional. I can't walk a straight line across the room, and my reaction speed and thought processes slow to a crawl. I'm not trusting myself with heating appliances that don't shut themselves off, so when I was out on my morning errands, I picked up some microwave meals. I'm limiting myself to the electric teakettle, the toaster oven and the microwave for a while. What's really odd is that I can take in information and understand it. I was watching World War II documentaries on the History Channel yesterday and retaining the information, and I was able to follow plots on Leverage and Doctor Who. I have a lot more trouble getting information out. With even the easiest question, I have to stop and think a while, and even then I'm not sure I trust my answer. I have to pay careful attention when typing because I'll type a totally different word than I meant, just because both words have similar letters, or I'll start typing one word and finish with another. I think I'm only managing this post because the last dose I took hasn't yet really kicked in. It also gives me really weird dreams in weird ways. I don't fall asleep instantly -- I think a lot of what it does is help me stay asleep, and it stops the coughing that wakes me up -- but while I'm drifting off, I'm dreaming while still conscious. It's not like a daydream, in that I'm not in control of the dream, but I'm aware that I'm dreaming. But it's just blips of dreams, like trying to watch TV with a channel surfer who just flips through channels with the remote. And then sometimes bits of one dream will follow into the next one. A lot of these dreams have involved TV shows I've been watching, so characters from one show will end up in another one. The Doctor landed in a lot of stuff last night.

That would make a fun Twilight Zone style story, where the characters on TV get frustrated with a channel surfer and follow him from channel to channel, determined to play their story out.

But I will have to write it when I'm a little more coherent. I think I'll be spending the rest of the day on the sofa because the drugs have really kicked in. Oh, and I'm on doctor's orders to drink tea! The information sheet about bronchitis they gave me said to drink hot liquids like tea. I also need to do that because one side effect of the antibiotics is a nasty metallic taste, and constantly sipping at something helps keep it at bay. While I was out today I picked up some of those Listerine strips so when I wake up in the middle of the night with the nasty taste, I can pop one of those in and go back to sleep. Last night, I used sugar-free gum, but I had to remember to spit it out before going back to sleep.

Friday, September 14, 2012

More Fall TV

I slept decadently late this morning, possibly because it was cool and cloudy but also because I'm still not getting uninterrupted sleep. There's an old ABBA song (I guess all ABBA songs are old) called "If it Wasn't for the Nights" that's probably about how the singer wouldn't miss the old lover or wouldn't succumb to the bad lover who's not good for her if it wasn't for the nights. In my case, I'd feel a lot better if it wasn't for the nights because that's about the only time I still feel bad. I'm okay until late in the day, and then I guess I get tired, so the hacking begins. Lying down makes it worse. I tried propping myself up on pillows, but I sleep on my side, and even if I fell asleep propped up on my back, I'd turn over in my sleep and end up in a horrible position. But last night I didn't end up taking another dose of medicine in the middle of the night and still managed to get some decent sleep, so I may be on the mend.

However, I didn't get any work done. I was just sitting down to work when a solution for a computer problem my mom's been having popped into my head, and I rushed to see if it worked (it did!), and then I saw an e-mail relating to FenCon PR that I had to deal with, which is good because it was urgent. By the time I was able to get back to work, the evening tiredness coughing kicked in.

But today, writing conditions are excellent, I'm not coughing that much, I had scones for breakfast, I think I've dealt with all the PR issues, and I should be able to get past this sticking point in the book.

While I was tired and coughing last night, I skimmed through the OnDemand menu and found another sneak preview, The Mindy Project on Fox. I needed something about that length, and I like Mindy Kaling from The Office, so I gave it a shot. This series is essentially Bridget Jones's Diary, except instead of our heroine being an Englishwoman working in publishing/journalism in London, she's an Indian-American doctor in New York. Mindy grew up obsessed with romantic comedy films that have influenced her views on life and love. Now she's hit bottom after her ex-boyfriend, who was supposed to be The One (they even had a cute-meet right out of a movie!) has married someone else, so she decides it's time to change her life and get herself together, only her willpower doesn't always hold out, especially where one of the doctors in her practice is concerned. He's handsome, British and allergic to commitment but up for any arrangement that allows him to have sex. Mindy thinks he's like Hugh Grant from one of his movies -- the lovable cad who changes his ways when he meets the right woman -- but her best friend says he's more like Hugh Grant in real life. But then there's the other doctor she works with, who's brash, egotistical and macho and who challenges all her romantic assumptions. And if you've ever seen a movie, you can probably figure out how this will go.

This wasn't the funniest or most original series I've seen, but it was rather charming, and it scratches the romantic comedy itch. It's filmed like a movie and has no laugh track (a big bonus for me). I won't be watching in real time because it's on ballet night, but I may save up episodes OnDemand and then marathon them on dateless Friday or Saturday nights (which is all of them, these days) when I'm in the mood for a romantic comedy.

The fall season starts to kick off next week, with The Office and Parks and Recreation coming back, plus the season premiere of Haven. SyFy UK has done a rather brilliant and atmospheric promo video for Haven that makes me wish the US promo team was as clever. In just that little bit of film, you get a sense of the characters, their relationships and their conflicts, plus we get good looks at Lucy and Sarah, our heroine Audrey's past identities. Note that the premiere date in the promo is for the UK. The US premiere is Friday, Sept. 21. When I'll be at FenCon.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Back to Kindergarten

I had my first night of really being in charge of the kindergarten choir, and my lesson plan seemed to work out okay in that I had just enough stuff planned to do and only had to skip the filler item I added in case it took less time than I planned to do the other stuff. There were a lot of attention span issues. The group is almost all girls, and they all know each other, and they get really, really chatty. They're far more interested in telling me and each other about what happened that day or what happened last weekend than they are in doing the class stuff. I dealt with some of that by starting with asking them about their day and letting them get all the most urgent and exciting stuff off their chests before I tried to get started, and that helped some, but they were still extremely hyper. There was one thing that was a surprise hit. The curriculum kit included a game that had an interesting structure. The kids don't pick a game piece and play against each other. Instead, the game pieces are competing, with the kids supposedly neutral. Each kid would pick a card from the stack, and then it would have a picture of a game piece and some instructions on it for how to move that game piece. The object was to see which game piece would finish fastest. These kids started avidly cheering for one particular game piece. I'd thought the game was a little weird and confusing, and it took me a couple of tries to get it when I played a test round at home, but the kids loved it.

I think I'm going to need to find more games, preferably some with musical content, and I may need to come up with an occasional craft project or at least some coloring pages. I need more of a mix of high and low energy activities.

I just have one new kid, and otherwise it's all the same kids I had last year, though I'm missing a few. Lucky for me, among the missing are those who were my biggest problems. Mole Boy did show up, but apparently he refused to go to the new classroom with me and insisted on going back to the old room, and there he only hovered in the doorway, watching instead of participating. I'd get my feelings hurt by him not wanting to be with my group, but I just don't have the energy to focus on dealing with a kid who clearly doesn't want to be there. As it was I'd completely lost my voice by the end of having to talk or sing for 45 minutes. Even the choir director sent me home and told me to get better when he heard me.

So, today I have no excuse not to get back to writing (other than a conference call this afternoon). The weather's even cooperating by turning gray. I re-read the last 60 or so pages the other day, so I'm ready to get going again. I already know this one is going to require a lot of revision because this draft is very terse. It's like I'm just trying to get down the bones of the story. I'll need to add a lot of flesh to it on the next draft. For a moment, I toyed with going back to the beginning and doing that now, but I think I want to get the whole plot done before I start revising.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Character Dimensions: Finances

I recently attended the World Science Fiction Convention, and one of the panels I was on was about Faith in Fiction -- how something that's been pretty essential to human culture tends to be left out of both world building and character development unless they're central to the plot. That got me started thinking about some other fundamental issues that tend to be neglected unless they play a role in the plot. If you think about these issues, it can add a layer of dimension to your character and your world.

One big thing is the issue of money. An economy is crucial for worldbuilding, but it's also an important part of life for individuals. Money is a major motive for crime, a motivation for many of life's decisions, a major factor in marital and family discord, and yet a character's attitude toward money seldom comes up unless it's important to the story that the person is greedy (like killing for money). Think about how many times a day you have to make financial decisions, spend money, think about spending money, think about not spending money, etc., then think about how often you see fictional characters dealing with this. Not that you want to fill a book with this, but when your character has to deal with money, what's in character?

When you're developing a character, here are some questions to consider:

What kind of financial background does this person have? Did she grow up rich, poor or middle class? How aware was she of her family's finances? Did her parents fight about money? Did she know they had to scrimp and save or did she just get Daddy's credit card?

What is her financial situation now? About what salary would someone with her education and experience make in her field in her city? What are living expenses in that city? How does she adapt to any disparity between living expenses and income? Does she stick to a budget or run up credit card bills?

If a character's financial situation now is different from his past, how does that affect him? Does he still try to live the old way, or does he adapt to his new circumstances?

How does the character feel about debt, credit and savings? Is he a cash or credit card person? How does he pay his bills -- online, in person, by check?

If she sees something she wants that she can't afford right now, what would she do and how would she feel?

What are the character's financial goals?

These are just some things to think about, and there are no "right" or "wrong" answers, only what's right or wrong for the character. For instance, some people who grow up poor but later have money may still be reluctant to spend money, while others become super generous. Their motives may also be individual. One person who's reluctant to spend money may be a miser while another might be afraid of being poor again. The thing is that if you know these things about your character, when the issue of money comes up in the course of your book, you'll know how your character will react, and that can even shape your plot.

This had a lot to do with how the first book in my series, Enchanted, Inc., kicked off. I'd already decided that my heroine was struggling to make it in New York, where her salary wasn't quite enough to cover living in the city, so she lived with two roommates and she tried to make the most of every dollar. She even walked to work as often as possible rather than spending a couple of bucks for a subway ride, since that added up, and it was only because she was running late one fateful morning and decided to splurge on the subway that she discovered the magical world. Her financial situation also helped lead her to being open to considering a mysterious new job. Those plot events might have happened anyway, but knowing how she felt about money helped add a layer of development to her character during those events and, I think, helped ground this fantasy world in reality.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Book Report: Airplane Reading

One more bit of Enchanted, Inc. series news I forgot to mention yesterday: The Japanese edition of No Quest for the Wicked will be released this Friday, so there's less of a gap between the Japanese and US releases for this book.

I'm still working my way through that biography that was the basis for the movie The Duchess. In case you find it intriguing, the title is Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman, and I keep finding more cool stuff that wasn't in the movie. Seriously, this would make for an AWESOME miniseries because there's too much to put in one movie. The movie did include the fact that she got pregnant by her lover and her husband made her give the baby to the father's parents to raise (never mind that he was bringing up his children by his mistresses in his household with his wife and their kids). What it neglected to mention was that he sent her away to France to have the baby in secret -- during the Revolution. Even after she had the baby, he didn't want her to come home because not only was he upset about the baby, he was also upset about her astronomical gambling debts. But around this time, France started to get really dangerous, so she fled to Savoy (a separate kingdom at the time), having to go on horseback because being in a carriage would have made her a target. Then she worked her way through Switzerland into Italy, stopping for a while at various places. At one point, she was staying with friends who were avid amateur scientists, and she decided to replace gambling with science. She started studying, reading, going to lectures and talking with scientists and got interested in mineralogy and chemistry. Her husband finally decided she could come home when war broke out on the continent, and she had to make her way across the war-torn continent to catch a boat, but since everyone else was fleeing, that was a challenge, so she had to use her infamous persuasive skills to get her retinue a spot on a private ship and be one of the last to get out. Back home, she put together a mineral collection that's apparently still being studied and set up a chemistry lab in her house and started hanging out with and patronizing scientists the way she used to do actors. You can't make this kind of thing up, and I can't believe the movie totally skipped it all.

Other recent reading:
My airplane book for the WorldCon trip was The Spirit War by Rachel Aaron, the most recent Eli Monpress book, and I'm now glad I delayed reading it until this trip because it makes the wait for the next one (November 20) shorter. This is a really fun romp of a series about a wizard who's able to charm the spirits that embody all things and get them to do things for him. He uses this power to become the best thief ever, but he tends to get into a lot of scrapes where he's forced to play the hero. I finished this volume in the middle of the night when I couldn't really sleep but was still sort of having to prop my eyelids open, and I couldn't stop until it was done. We learn a lot about our main characters in this one and we also see a number of confrontations we've been waiting for. I thought the ending was a bit of a cliffhanger, but the book includes a preview of the next book, and that that makes the cliffhanger even bigger because it shows why what happened was such a big deal. It also changes the way you see everything else that's happened in the series. When I'm through reading about the Duchess of Devonshire, I may go re-read the previous books in the series.

But because I finished my book the night before the last day of the convention, I needed to find a new airplane book for the trip home. After wandering through the dealers room, I ended up chatting with one of the booksellers, and he recommended the Eddie LaCrosse series by Alex Bledsoe. I picked up the earliest in the series he had, Dark Jenny, and it was a good call. This is a hardboiled PI series set in a fantasy sword-and-sorcery kind of world. It has all the tone of a Raymond Chandler-style detective novel, but there are knights, swords, etc. It can sometimes be a little jarring and a touch anachronistic (would people in the Arthurian era talk about having a "girlfriend"?), but since it's a fantasy world I guess I can't compare it to our own history. In this particular book, our hero has to investigate a murder in the middle of what's essentially the King Arthur story. One of Queen Jennifer's knights has been murdered, and it looks like she's being framed for it, but since Eddie's a stranger in court, he makes a really good scapegoat. To save his own neck and save the Queen (and possibly the kingdom), he has to find the real killer. There are some fun twists and turns, and I read it in close to one sitting and had finished it before I caught the bus home from the airport. I'll be looking for more in the series because it really is the perfect blend of two of my favorite genres. It works as mystery and it kind of works as fantasy (it's published as fantasy, but to some extent I think the "fantasy" part is the weakest part of the book).

Monday, September 10, 2012

Pre-Order Links and Costume Drama

First, a bit of business stuff. I've been remiss in not posting the pre-order links that are available for book 6, No Quest for the Wicked. It can currently be pre-ordered at Amazon and at the Apple iTunes store. It will be available at other venues on the sale date. These are just the ones that offer pre-orders. It looks like Amazon is listing it for on sale September 27. We'd been aiming for October 1, so it might be worth it to check some of the other venues on Sept. 27. We're also closing in on having the print version of book 5 ready. There was an Amazon oopsie on the first print proof that my eagle-eyed agent caught, and it looks like they've fixed it, so that may be ready for sale this week. We've already got the print version of book 6 in the works, so it's possible that could be ready much closer to the on-sale date.

And, since I've been getting e-mails, I'll repeat that I know this particular publishing method is not ideal, and I know a lot of people would rather go into their neighborhood Barnes & Noble and buy a paper copy, but I am not "choosing" to exclude people who don't buy e-books or don't buy things online. The only choice I had was to publish these books in the ways I had available or not publish them at all. If you want to read them, you can find a way -- and, no, your identity won't be automatically stolen if you make an online purchase from Amazon. You're a lot more at risk when you hand your credit card to a server in a restaurant or when you drop your credit card payment in a mailbox than you are using your credit card at Amazon, and you can always buy Amazon gift cards in stores (my grocery store carries them) and use that to make purchases without putting your credit card information online.

On another note, although I spent the weekend lying on the sofa and coughing, I didn't actually watch a lot of movies. I mostly re-watched a lot of TV shows. One I did catch was The Duchess, and since my library has the DVD, I think I need to rewatch it. For one thing, I realized that I have the non-fiction biography it's based on, and now that I'm reading it, it gives me a different perspective on the movie. For another, it was on Oxygen, so there's no telling what was cut, and there's this huge cultural whiplash when watching a costume drama on Oxygen because all the commercials seem to be in the "Wooo! Girlfriend, let's party! And go shopping!" vein.

Taken on its own, the movie isn't bad. It's about a rather fascinating historical figure, the Georgian-era duchess who was the leader of the fashionable set, had a surprising amount of political power for someone who couldn't vote or hold office, and yet who was stuck in a bad marriage. If some of that sounds eerily familiar, the woman in question was actually the many-greats aunt of Princess Diana (not an ancestor, as a lot of the reviews say. Diana was descended from this woman's brother), and the parallels are pretty stunning, as she was married young to a man who wasn't overly keen on it because he was already in a relationship with someone he wasn't able to marry, and then she eclipsed him because of her youth, beauty and vivacity, becoming a true celebrity who was both fawned over and vilified by the press. She was known to have the "common touch" and mingled easily with people of all classes, did a lot of charity work, and cultivated friendships with actors, writers and musicians. That's what the movie was pretty much about, and it was fine. But now that I've read about half the book, I have to say they totally missed the boat because they left out the good stuff.

For instance, they did show her being a leader of fashion, but they left out the bit where she's the one who set the style for those towering, elaborate hairdos with all sorts of stuff stuck in them, like a three-foot pile of hair with a model of a sailing ship in it. They showed her making a political speech, but they left out the part where she canvassed an entire area by going in and speaking to each shopkeeper and was considered her party's secret weapon. The press on her party's side praised her while the press on the other side accused her of trading sexual favors for votes. They also left out her being close friends with Marie Antoinette and being best friends with the Prince of Wales. When Parliament needed the prince to do or not do something, she was the one they got to try to talk sense into him. She was a compulsive gambler who nearly bankrupted her wealthy husband with her gambling debts. She created the first women's military auxiliary unit during the American Revolution after France declared war on Britain and the regiments started gearing up when she got bored watching her husband's regiment drill, so she designed female uniforms, recruited some other ladies and started drilling them (and she was still a teenager at that time). The part I really can't believe they left out of a movie is that she was in Paris during all the stirring that led up to the French Revolution. She entertained parties on both sides of the issue (though not at the same time), hung out with the King and Queen at Versailles and then left Paris just days before the storming of the Bastille. The movie just focused on her marriages, friendships and love affairs, but her real life was a lot more colorful.

The costumes and scenery were lovely, though. The clothing of that era is rather hideously gorgeous, or maybe gorgeously hideous. It's stuff that's fun to look at that I'd never want to wear, and I don't find the look of any of the men in that era to be at all attractive because even the men looked way too feminine. However, the clothes themselves are works of art.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Fall TV Preview: Revolution

I think I'm on the mend, as the fever has dropped and the aches have stopped. The aches were the worst part. I still have a bit of a cough and not much of a voice, but then I don't really need to talk for the next couple of days. I'm supposed to lead the singing in preschool Sunday school on Sunday, but I think I'm going to see if someone can switch with me, just in case I'm still not up to it by then. I spent last night lying on the sofa, marathoning the season to-date of Grimm and eating ice pops.

I also found the pilot for Revolution OnDemand, and I have to say that I'm leaning toward "don't bother." I won't even get into the iffy science of having electricity just "stop working" in a way that they can't even generate power anymore or the iffy sociology of having society fall apart that badly, to the point that the buildings are gone, in just 15 years. The visual of Wrigley Field in the wilderness was cool, but that's a pretty dense urban area. I'd think the houses would survive longer than the stadium because people would want to maintain their homes but might plunder the huge building that nobody's living in to get supplies. And wouldn't the El tracks still be around? Not to mention the clean, well-fitting, mass-produced clothing worn by the main characters. The female lead is wearing a snug-fitting, midriff-baring tank top with obvious Spandex, and everything Spandex I own gets either stretched-out or crispy after a while, and I'd think it would be worse without any climate control. Expose that stuff to extremes of heat, cold and humidity, and your Spandex is toast. It might not decompose, but it's not going to fit anymore.

But the real issue for me was the characters. Namely, what I tend to call "plot teenagers." It's Wesley Crusher syndrome, where the teen characters exist to both create and solve the problems. Just about every major event that happened in the pilot involved someone (usually one of the teen/very young adult characters) making a too-stupid-to-live decision, and most of that came from making these kids act like our teenagers today. The problem was, these kids had grown up in this environment, so they'd have a totally different mentality. When you have to defend your suburb against roving bands of bandits and militia and when you've already lost one parent to all the danger and destruction, you're probably not going to be doing the typical, "But Dad, you never let me do anything fun, like going out exploring in the no-man's-land wilderness," whining. I could see more of the typical modern semi-rebellious teen act if we were getting the immediate aftermath of the electricity no longer working (though most teens I know would probably sit there in a catatonic state with their thumbs twitching after their iPhones quit working), but kids who barely remember any other kind of life would probably behave very differently, and when you're living a subsistence agrarian life, an able-bodied teenager isn't going to have time to run off exploring. And then there's the falling asleep while in the middle of nowhere in a place with roving gangs of militias and bandits without leaving anyone standing guard. I can't imagine these people survived even fifteen years.

So, teen or very early 20s characters who act like teens front and center, making "plot teenager" decisions, combined with really weak worldbuilding may amount to, at most, hate-watching just to make fun of it.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

The West Nile Dalek Tea Crisis

I may not be quite as old and decrepit as I feared from my lingering aches. Last night when I got home from choir, I was feeling weird, took my temperature and discovered that I was running what is for me a pretty high fever. This kind of feels like a really mild flu. I've got the fever, aches and a bit of a cough, but I'm still more or less functional, if miserable, and with the flu I'm generally not functional at all. I'd suspect West Nile virus, since that's supposed to be mild flu-like symptoms in healthy people, but I haven't had a mosquito bite in months -- and the way I react to mosquito bites, I'd know if I'd been bitten. Now I feel kind of bad that I went to children's choir and was around the kids -- and this time I can't blame them. I am glad that I went home after children's choir instead of staying for choir rehearsal. Choir rehearsal was starting later, so there was an hour and a half gap after the end of children's choir. I picked up some groceries on the way home, and then I just didn't feel up to going back again.

The kids were very happy to see me and were thrilled that I'm still their teacher. Working with small children is a good way to get an ego boost. However, I found that the other teacher is considering me to be in charge. She's there for crowd control and I'll be doing the lesson plans. They give us a pretty extensive curriculum. Some of it is pretty cheesy and apparently written by someone who's never seen an actual child, so I may need to come up with a few activities on my own. Time to start searching the Internet for music-related activities for small children. Last night was just the meet-and-greet, so we played a few songs that have activities that go with them. For this session, the parents and any younger siblings with them stayed in the room, and it was so adorable that a couple of the kids have infant siblings, and the babies were bouncing around with the music like they were part of the group. I'm now glad I didn't go near the babies, though I think maybe I should have known I was sick when I didn't feel motivated to go hold and cuddle babies. Even with my kids, I just got the hug around the legs and then had to admire the new school shoes and clothes. One kid brought the box label from his new Dalek toy to show me. I didn't have to feign enthusiasm for that one. I think I need a Dalek toy.

But I don't really have time to be sick now. I've got to get book 6 ready for publication (we're going over review copy requests today), I'm still writing book 7, and I've got PR stuff to do for FenCon, which is just in a few weeks. I think I'll put on a burst of speed this morning to get as much busy work out of the way as possible, and then collapse this afternoon. I'm not sure how good anything I wrote right now would be.

Oh, and I'm out of tea! Well, not entirely, since I have a whole cabinet full of tea. I just don't have any of my usual daily consumption tea. I'll have to resort to (gasp!) tea bags until I feel up to a hike over to the Indian market to restock. And then, of course, there all all the flavored teas. Fortunately, I did pick up a couple of cans of soup last night because I had a feeling I'd need them.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

There's No Place Like Home

I have now safely and successfully returned from my travels, and it may take me a few days to recover, mostly because I kind of overdid it on my last day in Chicago and because Chicago doesn't seem to believe in signs. I slacked off on my last couple of days worth of posts because I hit the critical conjunction of busy and tired.

Saturday was my busy panel day, and things were standing-room only, with people turned away. That seemed to be a problem in every panel I attended after my first one on Thursday afternoon. I don't know if they didn't have enough programming items per hour or if they somehow had rooms too small for the panels I happened to choose or be programmed for, but after that first day when people hadn't arrived yet and that had a cavernous space, I didn't see a panel where everyone who wanted to attend managed to. The TV panels were in rooms about the size of my living room, and we went far beyond the fire marshal's limit posted on the wall, and yet people were still turned away.

But that kind of crowd does mean a lot of energy, so the panels were fun. I may do some posts of the "what I thought about saying later" variety because the ultimate panel comment usually comes at about three in the morning the day after the panel.

Saturday night, FenCon hosted our first WorldCon party, and since there weren't that many of us present, it meant I kept busy the whole night working the door and later serving beer, and then I didn't get to bed until 3:30 in the morning. I somehow zombied my way through my Sunday panel, but the late night completely messed up my sleep schedule, so that I missed the Hugo Awards ceremony because I fell asleep (and apparently that was standing-room only, too), and then I woke in the middle of the night and had to read a while to get back to sleep, which then meant I had to go in search of an airplane book in the dealers room on Monday.

After the con ended on Monday, I turned tourist and headed over to Navy Pier to see a stained glass exhibit Connie Willis had told me about. It was definitely worth seeing, but I may have overwalked myself. It would help if I'd let myself slow down and not act like I'm on a mission. I came back via the river and stopped for dinner at a little cafe in a garden on the edge of the water, where I waved back to the kids on the tour bouts who waved at people on the shore. That was a nice ending for my trip.

But I think the real reason my knees and hips currently hate me is the weird Chicago signage. For one thing, the street signs seem directed only to drivers, not pedestrians, so if you're walking the wrong direction on a one-way street, you have to stop at each intersection and turn around to find out what the cross street is. Then there was the subway station. The El stations are obvious, but the station I needed was underground, and it turned out to be in the basement of an office building. There was a sign on the sidewalk giving the name of the station, but no indication of where, exactly, the station was, with no obvious sign on the building itself letting you know to go in that door. In New York, when there's a station in a building, there's a sign over the door to the building. I walked all the way around the block trying to find the station. Then I found the secondary entrance, which required a fare card but didn't sell fare cards, and the sign there said the main entrance was a block and a half east. By that time, I wasn't sure which way was which, and it still didn't say where that entrance was. It would have helped if it had said something like "on the lower level of the XYZ building at XYZ Whatever Street." So I got a brisk half-half hour tour of downtown Chicago while hauling luggage. And now my knees and hips are suffering.

For more fun, children's choir starts tonight. I have kindergarten this year, which means the same kids I had last year, and I have a new partner. She used to do music for the church preschool, so I think she'll be the one doing the heavy lifting and I won't be totally in charge. I don't know because I haven't discussed this with her yet, but I've worked with her on other things before and I think we'll make a good team. I just may need to hit the hot tub today so I can actually move by tonight. I skipped dance last night and will try taking the beginner class tomorrow night.

And now to continue my catching up from my week-long absence.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

WorldCon Day 3

The "three-hour tour" last night turned out to be divine. I've done the river/lake cruise in Chicago before, on my first trip, but that was in daylight. This was after dark, and it was gorgeous seeing the city that way (with themes from science fiction movies playing on the sound system). Plus there was wine, food and good company. I did have the initial moment of social awkwardness when I didn't really recognize anyone in the dim light, and the people I did recognize didn't seem to recognize me. I had my hair up because I had a feeling wind would be an issue on the boat, and I've found that people who've met me once when I had my hair down don't recognize me when they see me again with my hair up, probably because my hair is the thing people notice, and then they don't recognize me when I'm no longer "the one with all the masses of ringlets." Like, I think it was driving Robert J. Sawyer crazy all night. He kept giving me funny "I know her from somewhere" looks.

So, as I was standing there feeling awkward, a man who'd also been standing around awkwardly came over to me and commented on how hard it was to recognize people in that light, then stuck out his hand and said, "I'm Alan Foster." I introduced myself and mentioned that we'd met before, and then he remembered who I was. So, not only did Alan Dean Foster get me into science fiction when I was a kid, but he rescued me from a massive wallflower attack because soon other people joined our cluster, and then the clusters broke off, and I made a new friend or two. I ended up spending a lot of the evening with Nancy Fulda, who has a short story nominated for the Hugo (it was about a dancer, so there was a bond) and with Connie Willis's husband. Then Connie joined us, and soon we had George R.R. Martin in our group, and it turns out that I wasn't the only one thinking Gilligan's Island about this event. We started figuring out who was whom. George was the Skipper because he had the hat, and Connie's husband was the Professor because he is one, and George said Connie was Mrs. Powell and I was Mary Ann. And then we got started talking about conspiracies because George thought it was fishy that the Professor could make a radio out of coconuts, but he couldn't fix the boat. I said he had a reason he wanted to stay on that island, so we were brainstorming reasons. It was also fishy that some of the passengers had brought multiple changes of clothing and lots of supplies for a three-hour sightseeing tour, so they must have known in advance that something would happen.

So, yes, I got into a conversation with George R.R. Martin, and what do I talk about? Gilligan's Island conspiracy theories. Welcome to my life. I don't plan this sort of thing. It just seems to happen. I'm also a little nervous that he saw me as Mary Ann, even though I was about as Gingered-up as I can get, because bad things seem to happen to "Mary Ann" type people in his books.

It was funny when the crew of the boat realized who was on board and they all then wanted their pictures taken with him. I didn't take any pictures because it was dark and the boat was moving, and I wasn't really in the mood for playing fangirl and getting my picture taken with the famous authors. I was having silly conversations with them instead.

I had my reading this morning, and there were actually people there! In fact, that may have been the biggest crowd I've had so far at a reading. My voice is fading, but I made it through that. Now I have two panels today, then a dinner and then a party, so it's a busy day. I'm taking some time to relax before I head into the really crazy time.