Friday, February 27, 2015

I Wanna Build a Snowman

It's snowing! It started with just a few flakes while I was eating breakfast, and it was so light that I could barely see it falling. By the time I finished breakfast, there was a coating of white on my black patio furniture. Now, though, the snow is visibly falling, and I'd say there's about an inch accumulated. I know this is nothing to northerners, but it's our first real snowfall of the year. We had a very brief rain/snow mixture earlier this week and a few flakes yesterday, but this is real snow.

I may get nothing done today because I kind of just want to stare at it falling. It's rather hypnotic. But I do have work to do to finish up the house. I got a carload of stuff out to the recycling center yesterday. I figure that in stuff I've donated, recycled or thrown away in the past few months, I've gotten rid of at least three carloads of stuff, which is that many fewer things to move when the time comes. I need to do one more pass on the closet and books. Hmm, that could be a fun snow day activity -- go through the To Be Read shelf and read first chapters. If I'm not interested, I can get rid of the book.

Yesterday I painted the kitchen and one wall of the living room. The paint color is close enough to the existing color that it doesn't show as different on adjacent walls, but it does show if a spot is missed on a wall, which means I might have a couple of touchups now that it's all dry. Today I want to clean out the painting mess and start doing an overall house cleaning. After getting rid of stuff, I have places to put things away. I may make my self-imposed deadline of having the house ready to list by spring break, and then I can get back to writing work.

But there may have to be some snowman building this afternoon.

This weekend Once Upon a Time returns, but comments by the writers in interviews leading up to the return are making me wary. The morality was already skewed, but they seem to be going off the deep end in woobifying a villain, claiming that she deserves all kinds of good things and has really had the short end of the stick because one particular thing didn't go right for her barely a year after she stopped murdering people. This is a woman who lives in a mansion, drives a Mercedes, still has a position of authority in the community, has her former victims supporting her and begging to be her friends, and whose adopted son still loves her in spite of the emotional abuse she inflicted on him (and in spite of the fact that he nearly died in one of her attempts to murder someone else). Her Grimm fairy tale counterpart was forced to dance to death in red-hot iron shoes. Somehow I doubt she'd see not being able to keep the guy she'd been dating for a couple of week as not getting a happy ending. As much as I love aspects of the show, I'm thisclose to giving up on it entirely. I'm even considering getting on Twitter just to call the writers out on their nonsense. This makes me so mad because the premise had so much potential, and yet it's a little too unique for me to find a way to scratch out the serial numbers and write it the right way.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Cabinet of Past Passions

I've updated my web site ever so slightly to include info on the new book, coming on Tuesday. Eventually I may need to do a total redesign to incorporate the steampunk stuff, but that will come after I get the house stuff straightened out (I hope).

Meanwhile, I'm about to head to the recycling center to unload a whole trunk load of old videotapes -- according to the city web site, they take them. In the Dark Ages before OnDemand, I used to record my favorite shows as I watched them. It started when I lived under the flight path for the airport, and it always seemed like a plane would take off right over my head at a critical moment, so I'd miss something. So I just started recording everything as I watched it, and then I could rewatch to catch things I missed. I found that I enjoyed rewatching anyway, and would often watch that week's episode (or at least my favorite parts) during the week, then rewatch it again leading up to the new episode. I'd also have plenty of stuff on hand to watch during summer hiatus. My recordings of the first season of The X-Files got me through the summer I was in physical therapy after knee surgery. I could put on an episode and get through my at-home exercises.

Now, OnDemand means I can rewatch that week's episode without recording it, so I seldom tape anything. I can get DVD sets of an entire season that fit into the space of one videotape. The move to HD has made the tapes even less relevant. So I've been purging my videotape collection. I have entire series on tape, some of which I now have on DVD. I also had a lot of movies I seem to have recorded off HBO when I first got HBO and was excited about all those movies -- OnDemand has ended that, as well, since I don't have to watch anything on HBO's schedule anymore. I kept a couple of series that aren't available on DVD and tapes of my own appearances on the news. Otherwise, a collection that once filled a cabinet and most of a bookcase now fits on a shelf and a half of the cabinet. This has freed up valuable bookcase space and given me good places to put away other things.

This process was interesting in tracking my past passions. There are things I used to be obsessed with that I now can hardly bring myself to watch. I've caught showings of some of these series on various cable channels and cringed. But at the time, I was obsessed and would rewatch constantly. I'm sure at some point I'll look at my DVD collection the same way. The DVDs just take up a lot less space.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Active Goals

I've realized that I may just have to go with the fact that I function best in "all or nothing" mode and quit trying to do little bits of things at a time. Therefore, I'm devoting the next few days to cleaning/organizing/housework to have it all out of the way, and then I'll get down to writing. The story is brewing in my head, but when I sit down to write, the to-do list pops up in my brain, so I can't concentrate. I think a big flurry of activity in the next few days will get almost all the projects finished. Then it will be down to the professionals I need to call in. And then I might be able to think again.

Now, for a writing post …

As I plot out a book, I've been thinking about character goals. This is a really critical thing to drive a story and the basis of plot -- what does your hero want, why, what's he willing to do to get it, and what's getting in his way? Meanwhile, your antagonist or villain also needs a goal, and preferably one that's at cross-purposes with the hero's goal, so that the things the villain is doing to go after his goal are what's getting in the way of what the hero's doing to go after his goal, and thus we have conflict.

You tend to get a stronger story with a positive goal -- wanting something rather than not wanting something -- and with an active goal instead of a reactive goal -- having something the hero wants to achieve rather than just wanting to stop the villain. That sounds simple, but it isn't really. For one thing, there's probably going to be some element of reaction in a hero's goal in any kind of good vs. evil story because, generally, the good people just want to be living their lives. They're not out looking for adventure. They're minding their own business until the villain shows up to mess things up, and that's what stirs the heroes to take action and restore order. That means that the hero's goal comes down to something negative and reactive -- I don't want the villain to ruin everything.

But there are still ways to turn this situation into a more positive, active goal. Yeah, they want to stop the villain, but they have a specific plan in place for doing so. They're not just reacting to things the villain does. For instance, the heroes in The Lord of the Rings want to stop Sauron, but the goal is to destroy the ring. That puts them in the driver's seat and flips things around so that Sauron's minions have to have the goal of stopping them from destroying the ring. In Star Wars, yeah, the Rebels have the general goal of stopping the evil Empire, but more specifically the goal of the heroes is to get the Death Star plans to the Rebels so they can find a weakness and destroy it. The Empire then is in a position of reacting, of doing whatever they can to stop this from happening.

There's still going to be some reacting as the heroes have to deal with each thing the villain does to try to stop them, but you aren't in the position of the villain driving all the action and the heroes just running around, trying to put out fires as they arise. If the hero's only goal is to stop the villain's evil scheme, then the villain is driving the story and the hero tends to seem to just be fumbling around, reacting to each thing the villain does until finally having a reaction that stops things for good. An active hero will react to the need to stop a villain by coming up with a clear plan with its own goal and then driving toward it, regardless of what the villain is trying to do.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Wives, Girlfriends, and Other Female Characters

It's another icy day. The roads seem pretty clear, but my front steps and driveway are still icy. The schools are closed again, but the ballet school just posted on Facebook that they'll be open tonight. I'll have to see what the driveway looks like by then and then figure out how wet it looks and what time the temperature will go back below freezing. I need the exercise and enjoy the class, but I admit that a part of me was looking forward to an evening under the blanket on the sofa, watching TV, since there are a lot of things on tonight. There's the season (and maybe series) finale of Agent Carter, and then in the late slot there's the series finale of Parks and Recreation, then new episodes of Forever and Person of Interest.

We're supposed to get snow tonight/tomorrow morning, but it's all supposed to melt by tomorrow afternoon, so I guess I need to come up with a choir lesson plan. I already know the kids are going to be stark raving insane, since they'll have been cooped up inside for days and out of school for two days. I wonder if I can get away with The Quiet Game (see who can stay quiet and still the longest).

The ice on my roof is breaking up and falling off. It's very loud on the clay tiles.

There's been a lot of talk around the writing spaces of the Internet lately about the "strong female character."  I saw a link to this parody, which is kind of genius because it illustrates exactly the thing that often bugs me about the idea of a "strong female character," which is that this is generally code for "Rambo in drag." Anything traditionally feminine is seen as bad, while anything traditionally masculine is seen as a positive. This woman is cool because she uses a gun, fights with a sword, doesn't care about emotions when she has sex, drinks beer, likes sports, and hates the color pink. She's not like those icky girly girls who wear pink dresses, like to sew, fall in love, like drinks with fruit garnishes, and want to have babies.

Apparently recently, some writer -- and I'm not sure who because I've read comments about it from other authors I know but haven't seen the original post -- said that the way to have a strong female character isn't to come up with a bunch of "strong" traits, but rather to give the character a strong role in the story. And that makes sense. A woman who can fist fight and who likes beer but who ends up just standing around on the periphery of the story, never making decisions that affect the plot, never initiating action, isn't a strong character. She's set dressing. The strong character is one who takes action, makes decisions, has some agency over her life, and it doesn't matter what traits she has.

This discussion reminded me of something else I've been noticing lately, and that's what has to be the most thankless character role ever: the established wife or girlfriend of the hero. I've noticed that in any TV show in which the main male character had a wife or girlfriend when the story begins, as opposed to someone he meets and falls in love with during the course of the story, that character will be fairly universally loathed. She can't win. If her relationship with the hero is happy and comfortable, then it's bland and they have no chemistry, and he needs to break up with her. If there's any conflict, then they're wrong for each other, she's too whiny or bitchy, and he should break up with her. If she doesn't play an active role in the story, then she's useless and boring. If she has any skills whatsoever and is at all competent, she's a Mary Sue. If she ever is put in jeopardy and needs to be rescued, she's a victim and useless. If she takes care of herself, she's a Mary Sue again. And usually it's the female fans who vilify this character. I've noticed that the men don't seem to have these strong feelings. I hate to throw out the "they're just jealous" thing, but maybe it does have something to do with the existing girlfriend/wife getting in the way of any fantasies about the hero -- he's not available to be paired up with anyone else. I've been trying to think of how it goes when the genders are switched, but I can't think of any cases where there's a female main character in a genre action-type show who entered the show with a ready-made husband/boyfriend who's a regular supporting character.

It doesn't help that the wife/girlfriend character tends to be written horribly. Writers often don't seem to know what to do with the girlfriend because she's mostly an adjunct to the hero, serving to ground him or give him something to care about, so she has no agency of her own, no purpose in the story other than through him. Or then they realize they're doing this and overcompensate, so she does end up being something like a Mary Sue. She can never be too good, though, or she overshadows the hero. Then again, no matter how well she's written, a big portion of the audience is going to hate her, so why bother? Just out of sheer obnoxiousness, I try to make a point of siding with the wife/girlfriend character, though there are times when she ends up being so badly written that I just can't deal with her.

I've been struggling with this in my current series, since I gave my hero a wife. I needed him to have some stakes in the story, so I needed him to have someone he was looking for. At the same time, I was irked by the number of rejections I'd had for other books where the fantasy editors rejected the proposal and suggested I try a romance publisher because the story was "too romancey" -- and nothing romantic happened in the proposal. There was a man and a woman in a scene together, with no suggestion that they were attracted or likely to get together, but I guess because I wrote some Silhouette romances more than a decade ago, that was too much romance for the fantasy publishers to handle. So, in a fit of ire, I made this male character married. Plus, there are all sorts of mythological models for a man going into an otherworld in search of a missing wife. It's the Orpheus story.

I went back and forth with how I was going to portray the wife -- would she be an ally? A villain? I had various outlines where she was one or the other, then decided to quit treating her as "the wife" and just deal with her as a person. What would someone in her situation be like? What would she do? How would she react? This ended up being fairly central to the plot of book 2, as it's largely about trying to free her and restoring her agency. I don't expect her to be anyone's favorite character, but I hope she's not hated just for being a wife.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Sleet Day

We have a "snow" day today. Technically, It's mostly sleet and ice, but that's actually more treacherous on the roads than snow. Most of the schools in the area are closed, which meant my yoga class was cancelled. The class is done at the church, and the church follows the school district, so if schools are closed, so is the church. Although I do like the yoga class, it was kind of fun to actually have a real snow day, in that there was something I didn't have to do. And I got to sleep in, which is nice on a cold day. Now I'm sitting in my office, watching the cars going up and down the main street. There's ice on the road visible from where I'm sitting, but the way a lot of these people are driving, it must not be visible. Some cars are creeping through the intersection, but just as many are flying by. There hasn't been a wreck at this intersection yet, but I have heard plenty of sirens.

You know when Jim Cantore on the Weather Channel is broadcasting from your town, it's going to be an interesting weather day. Actually, at one point I think he was broadcasting from the edge of my neighborhood.

I haven't done a Monday Movie report in ages because I haven't really watched a movie in ages, but I finally caught a showing of About Time on HBO that fit my schedule. I'd planned to see this at the theater, but then the reviews sort of turned me off enough that I didn't make the effort (as I recall, it was a busy time and wasn't at my neighborhood theater). I have a love/hate relationship with a lot of Richard Curtis's films. I really enjoy both Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill up to just before the endings, and the endings practically ruin things for me, so I've learned to stop watching before the end. For someone known for romantic comedies, I have to say that he does a lousy job of writing romances. What makes his movies work for me are the relationships between friends and family members. I always find myself wanting to be part of that group of friends or a member of the family. Some of the romantic relationships in Love Actually worked because each story was essentially a short story told in small pieces, but I have a feeling most of them would have fallen apart if they'd had to carry a whole movie.

But About Time isn't actually a romantic comedy. It was reviewed as one, and the reviewers thought it failed as that. But I think it's actually a coming of age story told through a fantasy twist. In the story, the men in one particular family have the ability to travel in time within their own lifetimes (there are other restrictions that come up later). They've used this ability for various things, but using it to be wealthy and powerful always ends up making them miserable. When the father in this story tells his 21-year-old son about the power, he says he's mostly used it to read (and re-read) more books, which sounds perfectly rational to me. The son decides to use it to get a girlfriend, with varying results.

Mostly what it comes to is the power to give himself a do-over. If he screws something up, he can go back and fix it. But then there's the problem that fixing it doesn't always work -- he often acts on the basis of what the woman says she wants, going back in time to do what she said she wants, but it turns out that even this isn't what she really wants. And sometimes fixing one thing messes up another thing. There are some amusing montages of him making various attempts not to mess something up.

There is a romantic relationship at the center of the story, as he uses his power to meet and get things right with a woman who fascinates him, but it's not really a "romance" in that it's not about them getting together. It's just part of his life journey to meet and marry someone and have children and generally be a grown-up, and ultimately have to face problems without getting a do-over.

It's funny in places, but it ended up leaving me a sobbing mess (in a good way). It's the kind of story that makes you think about your life and the choices you make. At one point, he takes his father's advice to live each day twice -- once getting through it, and then once he knows how it's going to come out, going through it again without worrying about it, enjoying every moment and making the most of it. Of course, the obvious lesson is to go through life that way without having to do it a second time.

I don't think I'll be buying this one to watch again and again because it's not that kind of movie for me. I'm not sure watching it again would actually be pleasant. But I'm glad I watched it the one time.

Also, if you're playing the Doctor Who/Harry Potter game and spotting cast members, the score goes pretty high. Almost everyone in the cast has been in one or the other (or both).

Now, after a weekend spent organizing my bookshelves and downstairs closets, I need to do a little more straightening and tidying work (it's funny what a mess organizing can create), and then I hope to get a lot of writing done because I tend to feel more creative on cold, gray days.

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Great Closet Purge

Funny thing I forgot to mention about Wednesday's choir adventures: I'd collapsed at the back of the sanctuary for the Ash Wednesday service when one of my choir kids came in with his family and enthusiastically headed straight to sit by me. His dad gently tugged him away and said, "I think she needs a break from you right now." I think I could have dealt with him, but still, you've got to love the perceptive and understanding dad. Oddly, that's a kid I have to correct a lot, so I guess it's nice that he still wants to be around me.

In lieu of painting yesterday, I purged my closet. I ended up with two of the big green "lawn and garden" garbage bags full of stuff to donate and one tall kitchen-sized bag of stuff that probably needs to go in the trash, unless I find a place that wants stuff just for rag or other recycling purposes, since these things all have either bad stains or holes. Meanwhile, I put a lot of out-of-season stuff in a big suitcase and stashed it in the upstairs closet. That cleared out enough space that I emptied all of the space bags and under-bed bags (aside for the good ones for the sweaters that require special handling) and still have room on the closet shelves for my hat boxes. I couldn't really follow the "if you haven't worn it in a year" rule because there were good things lurking at the back or at the bottom of the piles that I'd forgotten I had. By getting rid of a bunch of stuff, I found good stuff that I can still use. I'll have to do one more pass on the "good" clothes to convince myself that there's no saving those suits, and that will require trying things on. I also need to go through the handbag collection. I was pretty ruthless with the shoes. If they aren't comfortable, I'm letting myself ditch them. I guess feeling kind of woozy made it easier because I wasn't prone to nostalgia. I was strictly basing decisions on whether I will ever wear that particular item again, not on where I might have worn it in the past.

I do have one suit I'm pretty sure needs to go and that it will be hard to let go of. I bought it in my mid-20s, and it was a jacket, skirt, and slacks combo that was rather 1940s (I could imagine Agent Carter wearing it). It was a tiny houndstooth print in navy and white, with the jacket being a short "Ike" jacket (big shoulders, of course), and the pants were high-waisted and wide-legged. I wore this suit on my first trip to New York. I'd gone to D.C. first and took the train to New York, and of course it seemed like the perfectly appropriate outfit to wear on a train trip. I just needed a navy fedora to go with it. I felt like I should be in a black-and-white movie. I got a lot of compliments on that outfit from random strangers. Now I feel like the shoulders are just too huge, and the pants have that "mom jeans" waist. But man, that suit made me feel like something else -- all grown-up and sophisticated.

I have two other suits I bought in New York on that trip that will also probably have to go. They served their purpose in my life at that time, but I can't imagine wearing them again.

Now I need to find a good place to donate all these things. Most of the charities I've looked up want "gently used" items for a resale shop. These are probably more suited to "well, if you're desperate, these will cover your body and keep you warm" use. A clever seamstress might be able to remake the suits into something worthwhile. Otherwise, there are a lot of old t-shirts.

It feels really good to get essentially a carload of stuff out of my life. That may almost spur me to finish purging my office. At the rate I'm going, getting the house ready to show will be the hard part. Then almost everything will be sorted, and a lot of it boxed up, when it's time to move.

Now, though, I need to spiff myself up a bit to go to the library. Normally, I'd hike there in jeans and a sweatshirt, but the teen librarian at my branch just e-mailed me and said she got an ARC of the upcoming book at a library conference, and she noticed I live in the city and wanted to set up some programs this summer. I told her I actually use her branch and would be by today, so she told me a good time to meet with her. And so it begins ...

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Attack of the Germs

Last night wasn't as bad as I feared. Two of the church staff members who work with kids filled in for the preschool class and one of the moms stayed to help in my class, plus both of my teen helpers, including the one who's been away for knee surgery, showed up. Still, I think my kids sensed fear, so they were utter brats. One girl was openly defiant about everything. The moment she was told not to do something, she did it again, just for the fun of it. The boys were really hyper and wanted to do nothing but run around and try to kill each other, and one little girl was behaving well but screaming everything she said at the top of her lungs. I gave up on lesson plans and just passed out rhythm band instruments. Then it was a lot of fun when it was our turn to go learn about the harps. I should have made a recording of me saying "Don't touch until you're told to do so" so I could have played it on a loop. The defiant girl had to be constantly restrained by one of the teen helpers because the moment she was told not to touch one of the instruments, she reached for it again or reached for another instrument.

However, I have decided that I want a Celtic harp. It's a stringed instrument that I can play even without developing calluses, and I could probably play and sing at the same time. Because I need more hobbies.

Of course, after mentioning my fear of getting sick yesterday, guess who seems to be coming down with a cold. So far, it's just the lurking sense that Something's Not Right, with some sniffles and a foggy head. Therefore, I have made an executive decision to postpone today's planned day of finishing the painting projects. I have to sing in a small ensemble Sunday morning, so I don't want to risk triggering anything. When I already have sniffles, working with paint may not be such a great idea, and when my head is foggy, I don't think climbing on ladders is too smart, either. I'll find something else to work on, like purging my closet and cleaning my office. The deadline for having the house ready hasn't changed. I'm just shuffling when I do which projects.

Yesterday I cleaned off the bathroom countertop and re-caulked the bathtub. It's amazing how big a difference that made. I suspect the old caulk had been there since the house was built, and it had stained in ways that even bleach wouldn't remove. The new caulk is supposedly anti-microbial and mildew-resistant, which probably didn't exist when the house was built in 1984.

I also need to do some writing and work on a marketing plan for this summer's book to share with the publisher marketing team. They're focusing on the teen and school markets, so I think I'm going to focus my marketing on the steampunk community, both teens and adults. It's on the steampunk bestseller lists at Amazon already, which is a good sign. I have high hopes for this book, and I really would like to sell the rest of the planned trilogy.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Fending off the Germ Attack

I actually managed to achieve writing yesterday! I rewrote the first two scenes to fit with what I now know is the real plot of the book. I don't know if I'll get much done today because I have a lot of work on the house planned and it's choir day and I have to do some lesson planning. I also found out that not only will my co-teacher be out sick, but both of the preschool class teachers will be out, and so far we haven't found any substitutes because everyone else is sick or has sick kids. Fortunately, we already had planned for tonight to be the time the harp group comes to demonstrate, so that gives us an activity that takes up most of the evening, plus some bonus adults, but not all the kids can do that at once, so we need at least one other adult. I may kidnap the first parent who shows up.

My main plan for the evening is to do a late Mardi Gras parade (we're doing our pancake supper tonight, then having the Ash Wednesday service, so I figure Mardi Gras lasts until the service starts) and let the kids march around to "When the Saints Go Marching In." I have the CD from the band I once sang with in the French Quarter. I may even get wacky and let them play rhythm band instruments along with it while we march. We're working on matching the rhythm in a song. Some of them can find the beat, but most of them don't yet seem to realize that there is a rhythm in a song. When I get the younger kids, I have a book/CD story song thing about riding on a train to visit Grandma, so there are lots of motions and "whoo whoo" things to do along with the song.

And then as many sick people as seem to be around, I plan to cover myself in hand sanitizer and take extra vitamin C. I'm still expecting to come down with something at any minute, after all the coughing and hacking that were around at last weekend's convention.

Tomorrow is going to be another (and I hope my last for a while) big painting day, so today's fun around the house is doing some prep work for that. I found actual floor space in my office yesterday, which was very exciting. Even in just half an hour of work, I can see a real difference, so I need to make a point of doing those half hours. I just have two and a half weeks to get the house ready to show.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


I have given myself a deadline to get my house ready. I'd like to have it on the market by spring break, so that's three weeks from yesterday. This week I need to finish the painting (the kitchen, the trim around the house) and get the office clean and clear enough that there's access that doesn't require dance skills to get to the upstairs bathroom. Next week, I plan to have the plumbing issues taken care of, and once that is done, fix the kitchen floor (self-stick vinyl tiles seem to be the best solution for a quick and relatively easy spiff-up that doesn't require removing the old floor). Otherwise, there's a lot of cleaning, sorting and purging. Having a deadline should help me focus and get stuff done, and having an endpoint makes it easier to deal with. When it's all over, I'll just have to maintain the clean (and be prepared to make myself scarce for showings). And then I'll get the fun of moving. Yay. The trick may be finding something to buy. Houses like mine seem to be selling within a couple of weeks, and there's not much else coming up for sale. But it's likely more will start showing up around spring break, and it's possible that any new buyers might not want to move in until near the end of the school year.

In the meantime, there will be another book out. Book 2 in the Fairy Tale series, To Catch a Queen, will be coming out March 3, in e-book, paperback and audio. Here's the cover:

It's available for pre-order at iBooks and at Amazon.

I will eventually get my web page updated, but in the meantime, description and samples are available at these sites with previews.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Midwinter Break

I'm feeling very virtuous because I got up this morning to go to yoga, even though it was cold and drizzly and I was in "recovering from a convention" mode. But there is a strong possibility of a nap this afternoon.

My bathroom looks rather nice. There are a couple of spots I'll need to touch up with a tiny brush, and I need to do some cleaning and put everything back in place. I still need to do the kitchen and a couple of the living room walls, but that will have to wait until the weather warms up a bit and it's not so damp.

I would say I had moderate amounts of fun at the convention. I went to some panels I wasn't on and got some good info and ideas, but the social scene was kind of quiet. There were some people I hoped to talk to and never really got a chance. The room parties got shut down early. So mostly this amounted to a midwinter break for me -- a whole weekend to recover from home improvement projects.

I want to get some writing done today because talking about books does inspire me, and I did get the opening of the book re-planned last week. It's a good day for it. After a nap (because I really need a nap), I can snuggle under a blanket and get down to work.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Sign from Above?

The bathroom is now painted. I'm going to have to do a second coat in the areas where the roller wouldn't reach because the brush doesn't seem to do as heavy a coverage. I've decided to do the trim and any touch-up work later. It turns out that this paint has almost no odor, so sleeping next to a room that's just been painted won't be an issue. The main reason it's good to be out for a couple of days is not having to worry about drying and having my bathroom not really that useable (draping all over everything, the shower curtain down).

I'm already mostly packed for the convention, so after doing that second coat in the tricky spots I'll be able to just put on decent clothes, hop in the car, and hope I can check into the hotel in time to take a shower before my 4 p.m. reading. I'm actually ahead of my planned schedule, mostly because I also decided to do the kitchen later.

I woke up this morning from a dream in which I'd decided I needed to move to Nashville. I'd figured this out because it had the kind of scenery/terrain I like (true), closer to the kind of weather I like (also true), and a lot of the kind of people I like (also true), and I already know someone there because a friend from here moved there. But I don't think it was a Sign From Above dream because the next part of the dream involved me searching for real estate listings there to see what kind of house I could get with my current budget, and I couldn't get the search to work. When I put in my search parameters, I just got random pictures that weren't of houses. Then after that I couldn't seem to find a computer to search on, no matter where I went. From there it transitioned into one of those "returning to an office job" nightmares. So while I think I could live in Nashville and enjoy it, I'm not sure why I'd want to move there at this point in my life. I am still tempted to do the real estate search and see what comes up.

And now the first coat of paint should be dry enough for me to do a second coat.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Painting Week Continues

My fun yesterday was applying spray-on texture to the walls that previously had wallpaper on them. The result isn't perfect (I don't think the stuff works as advertised), but it'll do once it's painted. The original paint job for this house was so sloppy that anything I do, however amateur, will be an improvement. They did a terrible job of mudding over the drywall tape (the tape is visible in places), and I think they pretty much painted by standing in the middle of the house and waving a paint sprayer around.

Today is taping, prepping and priming day, but I also have to get some stuff done to prepare for ConDFW this weekend. I'm so looking forward to having this phase of the project over with so I can get my kitchen and bathroom back to normal. Right now, my laundry room contents are in my dining room and there's plastic all over the bathroom. After the weekend, I really need to get my act together on the cleaning and other work because I've noticed that all the houses like mine are selling almost immediately. I was worried that there were too many on the market, but they're going fast. My problem may not be selling the old house, but rather finding a new house. There are currently three on the market that aren't my ideal but that I could probably live with.

I'm really looking forward to this weekend's convention, but mostly as a mid-winter vacation and recovery period from the Week of Painting. I don't have a lot of panels, so I may be spending my off time just hanging out in my hotel room with the knowledge that I'm not having to do any housework or home improvement projects. I may catch up on reading and sleep and occasionally emerge to socialize.

But first, there is sanding to be done.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Writing Amid Chaos

The crazy busyness of my life right now has inspired this week's writing post: How do you write when you have a lot of distractions? When life is going according to plan and you don't have a lot going on, it's a lot easier to fit in writing time. But what about when life is a little crazier? There are times when you're sick, when you have sick family members, when your day job is requiring long hours or travel, when you have a book being released and have to do promo work, when you're moving, or, like I am now, you're getting a house ready to sell and doing a lot of cleaning, organizing, and repairing. Can you still fit in some writing time? Maybe, but it takes some strategy.

One thing to try is scheduling your other obligations and your writing -- you'll paint the bedroom from this time to this time, and then at this time you'll do an hour of writing. You need to be realistic here about what you can really accomplish and which projects are do-or-die. If you're on deadline with a book, then that might have to be the priority, and you schedule other stuff around that. If you absolutely have to finish the work project, then you may have to reschedule the writing accordingly. I do find that setting a writing appointment makes it easier to make myself fit a bit of writing into the day because otherwise all those little tasks will expand to fill the available time.

Once you've set aside time to write, you may need to do something that helps you change gears. Otherwise, even though you're sitting down with your pen or your computer, your brain will be off mentally comparing paint colors. It may help to find a sensory trigger -- a visual, scent, or sound that takes you immediately into the world of your book. It may be a picture that reminds you of your setting or characters, a scented candle that evokes the mood of the story, or a piece of music that brings the story to life in your head. You may have to work to establish these triggers. It will take a few times of looking at, smelling, or listening to these things as you get down to work before you start associating them with your writing. It can also help to establish habits or rituals that separate your writing from the other things going on in your life. You may want to change clothes, move to a new location, make a pot of tea, meditate for a moment, light a candle, play some music, etc., to signal to yourself that you're in writing mode.

Of course, during some really trying times, switching gears entirely isn't an option. That's when you need to give yourself permission to lighten up -- unless you're on a deadline, and even then if you have something really serious happening, you should talk to your editor and see if you can work something out. It's better to do that as soon as you know there might be a problem than on your deadline date when your book is only halfway done. I've heard that over and over again from editors, that they'd rather you let them know that you've had some life crisis and may need more time well ahead of your deadline. If you don't have a deadline, then you can lower your expectations while you're in crisis mode. You may only manage to write a page or a paragraph, or you may just get some ideas jotted down. I'm repainting my house this week and going to a convention this weekend, and I realized that trying to write wasn't working, so I outlined some ideas and I'm listening to music that reminds me of the book while I work. I'm hoping that means next week I can sit down and write with some pent-up ideas and end up being more productive than if I forced myself to squeeze in work this week.

This only works, though, if you have a good sense of the stop date for your crisis. It can be dangerous to your productivity to let it extend indefinitely. If you know that your project will end two weeks from now and then you'll get your life back, it's okay to just put your writing aside until you can breathe. If you do that for an ongoing difficulty, it's too easy to get into the habit of not writing. There's always going to be something going on in your life to get in the way of writing and it will become an excuse.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Painting Week

The Week of Painting has begun. Yesterday I obtained paint and painting supplies, so I guess I'm really going to do this. The main thing that needs doing is the bathroom, in part because it's a non-neutral color and in part because of some sheetrock repair that was done when the new heater/air conditioner was installed. When I bought the house, there was a pinkish and teal "Southwestern" pattern wallpaper in there. When I was using the downstairs bedroom as an office, that didn't bother me much. When I switched rooms, moving the bedroom downstairs and the office up, that wallpaper didn't work adjacent to my rather Victorian blue-and-white bedroom. I ripped out the wallpaper and painted the walls a bright blue (if you use the plain blue wallpaper screen on a Mac, it's about that color) with a soft beige color wash over it. I was planning to use the sheetrock repair as an excuse to repaint with a slightly different shade of blue because the original paint came out a bit darker and brighter than I really wanted. I just couldn't decide on a paint color. I've had cards of paint samples sitting in that room for years and was never sure about any of them. Since I'm planning to sell soon, I figured I might as well just do a basic white, especially since I also have to repaint the laundry room because there's a bit of sheetrock repair in there from a plumbing repair.

I was then trying to decide which white was closest to what I needed, but then I got the clever idea of taking the piece of sheetrock that was cut out of the laundry room to Home Depot and telling the guy in the paint department that I needed that kind of paint in that color. He ran it through the scanner, and now I have paint to match, and it's enough to take care of most of the normal-height walls in the house -- the ones that are problem areas, like in the kitchen. The original painters didn't do a very good job because there are spots where the tape is clearly visible, so I'm doing some mudding over it before I paint. Today's fun is finishing the sheetrock repair in the laundry room. I've already touched up the spots around the new thermostat. Tomorrow I get to apply new texture to the walls that used to be wallpapered and to the patched areas. Thursday will be primer day for the spots that need it. Then Friday morning I'll paint before heading to ConDFW, and that way the paint can dry thoroughly while I'm out of the house.

This is where all the work I've done with Habitat for Humanity is paying off. I learned all kinds of skills for painting and preparing for painting, as well as observing how to deal with sheetrock.

Meanwhile, I guess I also need to get ready for the convention. I need to find something to read and maybe get together some promo stuff. And I got the new book re-outlined yesterday, so I hope to do a little writing. I'm finding it hard to fit all the home repair work and the writing in because it's hard to shift mental gears. I need to find a piece of music that tells me it's time to write this book so I can shut off the part of my brain that's figuring out the best way to paint that particular wall.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Not Getting Stuff Done

That whole Weekend of Getting Stuff Done plan didn't end up happening. There was a ballet production I decided I wanted to see, and tickets were plentiful, so I drove to Fort Worth to see The Merry Widow, a ballet based on the operetta. The dancing was wonderful and the costumes were utterly gorgeous, more evening attire than traditional ballet costumes. I figure it counts as research since I'm writing about a dancer, but I also found it interesting watching the non-verbal communication. Unlike a lot of ballets, this was very plot-intensive. I'm not sure I could have followed it entirely without the summary in the program (and a lot of the people around me were confused even with the summary), but it was still interesting seeing just how much could be conveyed about emotions and relationships just from body language. I caught myself mentally supplying narration from the various characters' point of view, just to see how I'd write it based on what I was seeing.

The plot was about a wealthy widow who was much in demand. If she married a foreigner and moved out of her small (fictional) European country with all her money, it might bankrupt her country, so her country's delegation in Paris was trying to make sure she married one of them. The suitor they picked to go after her turned out to actually have been a former lover of hers from when she was a young peasant girl. He rejected her on the urgings of his family because of her class (I guess she later married a really wealthy man who didn't care about her origins). When they're reunited, all the old feelings return, but can she be sure he really loves her and doesn't just want her for her money? I thought it was interesting how the dancers conveyed that sense of affection combined with distance. There was clearly a strong attraction but also a strong sense of pain and pride on her part -- she wasn't going to let him hurt her again. Anyway, I think it was time well-spent.

I didn't get much done on Sunday, either, since I had to do preschool Sunday school and direct the preschool/kindergarten choir to sing in church. Then there was a reception after church and grocery shopping, and lunch and reading the newspaper, and next thing I knew, it was time to cook dinner. So that means the Getting Stuff Done has been moved to today. I need to get paint and some supplies and start some of the prep work -- a few drywall patches, doing some texture on the walls that previously held wallpaper. I think I need to make a detailed list of all the work that needs to be done so I can tick off the boxes. The big things for me, other than general decluttering and cleaning, are the sheetrock repair and painting and doing something about the kitchen floor. Otherwise, I need to get a plumber in for a bunch of little things, replace a window and then decide if two of the ceiling fans need to be replaced or if I can get by (they work but are noisy).

In the meantime, there's writing work to be done. Today I need to finish the cover copy for book 2 and outline and write preliminary cover copy for book 3 (just to get my head straight).

It's going to be a busy month.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Age and Time

The plan for today/the weekend is Get Stuff Done. There will be an epic Home Depot trip this afternoon to prepare for a lot of little repair projects and get some painting supplies. Since I'm going to be at a convention this weekend, I figure Friday morning will be a good time to paint the bathroom since I won't have to sleep in the room next to it for a couple of nights. That means finding the right paint color. I've spent years with paint color cards stuck on the wall, trying to decide on the right shade of blue, but since I'm planning to sell soon, I now need to try to match the same white used in the rest of the house. And then I need to do a lot of cleaning/organizing. I've been invited to a party/house concert Saturday night and am still on the fence about going. On the one hand, it's something I'm interested in and might even be good for me professionally because the attendees are well within the target market for my writing. On the other hand, it's a bit out of my comfort zone (performing may be required), I'll only know a few of the people there, and getting home could be interesting, as the freeway between there and here will be shut down that night (I know the back roads, though). We'll see what condition I'm in after a day of Getting Stuff Done. I'll either be energized or collapse on the sofa.

Meanwhile, I've noticed a trend in my entertainment interests lately, and when I notice a trend I have to analyze it to figure out what it is I like about it. Then I have to see how I can use this in my work.

So lately I've found myself really interested in stories about people who are much older than they appear -- not like me still being asked for ID when I buy wine at the grocery store, but people who are centuries old but who look 30-something. And not vampires. Mostly, humans who've had their aging arrested somehow or who have been made immortal, but who don't have any other superpowers.

I think it started with Doctor Who and Matt Smith's version of the Doctor (though he doesn't really count as an ordinary human made immortal), where he looked very young but played the role like he was an old man. It really kicked into gear, though, when Rory spent 2,000 years as a kind of robot, then the universe was rebooted so he was never killed in the first place, but somehow he still had the 2,000 years of memories. They didn't come near making use of the potential of that, but there were moments when you got the weight of those 2,000 years in this young man.

There was the short-lived series New Amsterdam, with the immortal cop -- a Dutch soldier from the early days of settlement on Manhattan cursed with immortality. Now there's Forever, with the doctor made immortal a couple of centuries ago and now working as a medical examiner. Both of these series include one of the elements that I think fascinates me about this trope -- the role-reversed parent/child relationship. In New Amsterdam, there was the elderly man who was friends with the hero and who turned out to be his son. In Forever, the hero's close friend and father figure is actually his adopted son, a baby he rescued from a concentration camp at the end of WWII. This relationship is at the core of Forever, with the son sometimes looking after the "young" father as though he's a son (and that's the way the world sees them), but then when they're alone, they sometimes have those parent/child squabbles, with the seemingly younger man griping about the older son's fondness for that modern jazz music and the seemingly older man whining "Daaaaaad" when his father warns him not to do something. Doctor Who had a similar age-reversed family situation, with Rory and Amy's daughter being a couple of decades older than they were (due to time travel, though, not weird aging).

Then there have been a couple of versions of the Captain Hook story that have played with this, to varying degrees. It was most effective in the novel Alias Hook, in which Hook was immortal in Neverland, and over the centuries he did eventually grow up after watching generations of Lost Boys come and go. They sort of touch on this (but not as effectively as they should) in the version on TV's Once Upon a Time, where Hook spent a couple of centuries in Neverland not aging, so he's one of the oldest characters on the series, but played by one of the younger cast members. This mostly comes down to a few age jokes, as they barely remember that he's in a strange world, let alone a man out of time, so it's frustrating to me as a writer. They completely wasted the potential in another age-reversed relationship, where one of the Lost Boys he looked after and connected to ended up outside a curse that froze time for 28 years, so when they were reunited, the boy he knew was older than he was. Sometimes I really want to stage an armed takeover of the writers room for that show. The characters should sue them for malpractice.

So, why do I find this fascinating? I think as I get older, I find myself thinking of age and what it really means. I don't feel any different mentally or emotionally than I did as a teenager, even as I see gray hair. I took one of those "what's your real age?" online quizzes about your interests, and it gave me an age ten years older than I am. And yet I still get asked for ID to buy wine. Making a character's age extremely out of whack with his/her appearance is a way of exploring the concept of what age really means, if it means anything. I'm not sure why I'm fascinated with the out-of-order family relationships -- maybe a metaphor for aging parents? -- but I think it's mostly that it requires some creativity in writing. It takes characters out of neat little boxes and forces them to adjust.

I'm not sure how I can use this in a story, since it's probably less effective in print than it is on the screen. You see characters from the inside in a book, and no matter how many times you say that someone looks 30, if they act 100, that's what readers may see. I do have one idea in mind that involves someone being frozen in time for a long time -- a kind of Groundhog Day existence -- but I'm not sure how that will manifest. I think it'll mostly be more like time travel, suddenly being dumped into a strange environment, though she'll have made a lot of use of all that time to have a decent array of skill sets.

But that's a backburner story until I finish a few other things.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Reading Reviews

The publicist at my publisher isn't too worried about Harper Lee hijacking my release date. There's not a huge crossover audience. I suspect that the teen readers are still in the "ew, a sequel to a book I was forced to read" category, and it'll be literary people who are most excited. I did love To Kill a Mockingbird when I read it, but I've never had any desire to re-read it, and I'm not sure about reading the follow-up book. Sometimes, a book stands alone as a perfect entity, and I would rather leave it that way than follow up on it. There have been other books I've loved where I've avoided sequels. If there's enough material there to get a story out of it (and it isn't a genre situation where villains can arise), then it generally means things are disrupting these people's lives. I'd rather imagine what happens next than actually see it play out. But I'm weird that way. I haven't read the new Bridget Jones book that takes place more than a decade after Bridget and Mark Darcy got together.

For now, I need to worry about my own books. I've been going back and forth with my agent on cover copy for the next Fairy Tale book. She doesn't think my take is quite right, then I agree with her but think her take on it is all wrong, so I rewrite, and she's not sure about that. Eventually we'll agree on something that accurately describes the book. Meanwhile, they're getting info together to send to subrights agents, and I haven't been collecting or even reading reviews, so I don't have review quotes. Strangely, I find myself really sensitive about this series. I can't even bear to read positive reviews of it. The longer I'm in this business, the less I can deal with reviews, in general. When I started out with the Enchanted, Inc. series, I had Google alerts set up. By the seventh book, I didn't want to know. And it's not like I get a lot of bad reviews, so I'm not sure where this came from. I think I mostly don't want to be influenced by outside voices, good or bad. I've seen how dangerous that can be in other people's work. You'll never make everyone happy, so there's no point in catering to the fanbase. You just need to write your own stories.

Anyway, this will tie in to my next step in the book I'm working on because I need to come up with a paragraph to describe it, and if I can't describe it in a paragraph, I need to work more on the plot.

All this on a day when I really just want to crawl back in bed. I had a weird nightmare last night in which I was in grad school (I've seldom considered grad school because it's not that applicable to my life, but being in grad school has become a recurring nightmare) and taking a writing seminar that somehow involved both pointe shoes and cake decorating. And we weren't allowed to eat the cake. I'm not sure what this had to do with writing. At any rate, it didn't make for restful sleep, and then I woke up at 5 a.m. with a bad foot cramp. I managed to ease the worst of it, but it's still twinging. Maybe that's where the stuff about pointe shoes came from.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

My Hijacked Release Date

The big news in the publishing world yesterday was that Harper Lee is finally releasing a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird. It's actually a book written before the one that was published and takes place 20 years later. Apparently, an editor who saw this book told Harper Lee she was more interested in the events the main character remembered from her childhood and wanted to see that story, so she went back and wrote the book about the childhood events, then never published the original book. There's a bit of controversy about whether she wanted this book published. She'd said she didn't, but there's a new attorney in charge of her estate after the death of her sister, who previously controlled it. I've seen a remark by someone familiar with the situation that this book might have been a fallback in case the income was necessary to pay for Harper Lee's care in a nursing home (my current retirement plan is to stockpile books that can continue to be released in my "retirement," so that makes sense).

And guess who shares a publication date with this highly anticipated book? Yep, me. Both the sequel and my Rebel Mechanics will be released on July 14 (unless my publisher blinks and switches it).

I suppose there is both good and bad potential here. On the bad side, this means that there is absolutely no chance I could have a #1 bestseller that week. Not that I was in much danger of that. I don't have a "lead" title, so it wouldn't get the kind of promotion and bookstore placement necessary to have a bestseller. It's also likely that I won't get much publicity, since all book news that week will be on the highly anticipated book. Not that I expected a lot of mainstream publicity.

On the good side, this means that a lot of people will probably be going into bookstores that week, which increases the chances they'll be exposed to my book. That is, if the stores don't devote all display space to the other new book that week and don't bother to shelve anything else. I don't think there's that big a crossover audience, actually. As beloved as To Kill a Mockingbird is, I suspect that the majority of its sales come because it's required reading in so many schools. I know book people are drooling in anticipation, but there are a lot of people who may not be that excited about the sequel to a book they were forced to read in junior high. It will be interesting to see what happens with this release. I'm sure a lot of people will buy it because of the hype, and people who write about books are excited, but how does this really trickle down to the general book-buying public?

Now I can see myself visiting bookstores during release week and saying, "Hi, I'm not Harper Lee. I'm the slightly less reclusive Shanna Swendson, and I also have a book out."

I'm sure I can have fun with spinning this into some publicity advantage.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Girls in Towers

Yesterday was pretty productive. I got a fair amount of research reading done, and I had a few plot idea breakthroughs. I'm starting to see bits of mental movie for this book again. I've also done some PR thinking and planning. I may be about to make the scary leap into Twitter. I have a few more ideas I need to implement, so stay tuned for news.

In the meantime, I have a book to discuss! As you may have noticed, I have a thing for fairy tales. I also love history. And magic. I found a book that combines all of them, Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth. It's a Rapunzel story that's also about the writing of the Rapunzel story. The story of the maiden in a tower may possibly have been a folk tale, but there were two very early published versions, so it might also have been what's often called a "literary fairy tale" that was written by a particular author, like Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, or Peter Pan. The earliest version was Italian, and then there was a later French version, but apparently it would have been unlikely for the French author to have seen, heard of, or read the Italian version. This novel attempts to explain this. I suppose in a way that this book could be considered historical magical realism because the fantasy element is that the folk magic that was actually practiced -- love charms, curses, and the like -- really is magic and really works. But the book is based somewhat on real people and real events.

The author of the French version of the Rapunzel story was a scandalous noblewoman and novelist. She was banished to a convent by Louis XIV after one scandal too many. That much is true. In this novel, while she's in the convent, the elderly nun who tends the garden befriends her, and while they work in the garden together, the older nun tells her the story of a young girl who's taken away from her parents by a witch and locked in a tower.

The narrative involves stories within the story. There's the framing story of the woman being sent to the convent and trying to adapt to the abrupt change in lifestyle. There's the story the older nun tells about the girl in the tower. There are flashbacks to the main character's life, from childhood on up, explaining what led to her being sent to the convent. And then we also get the story of the witch's life and why she locked the girl in the tower.

If you're into history, there's a fun look at life in the court of Louis XIV and at life in Renaissance Venice. I found myself digging up Baroque music and wanting to read more about both time periods. The Rapunzel part of the story is one of the more interesting fairy tale fleshing-outs I've read. It makes the story make so much more sense by getting into the motives of everyone involved (and even explains the salad craving and why the witch is so uptight about her garden being invaded). I admit that the book was a bit slow-going at first, but it picked up once I got into it.

Now I think I need to re-watch Tangled.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Memory Lane

I had a yoga class this morning, so I'm feeling all stretchy and relaxed, and since it's a cold day, the temptation is to snuggle under a blanket and just read.

Fortunately, that's exactly what today's work requires! I have a few e-mails to send or respond to, and then I have some reference books to go through because I have an idea about the book I'm working on that needs some development, and I stopped by the library on the way home from yoga to pick up the books I need. I've got a theme in the works and I can feel the story coming together. This will be the perfect day to burrow under a blanket with a book and a notebook and do some planning and plotting.

Meanwhile, I got the office closets mostly cleared out over the weekend and have started putting other stuff in them. I'm discovering floor space. Soon I may achieve enough floor space for a plumber to easily access the upstairs bathroom.

The boxes I was sorting through were keepsake boxes from high school, college and my first job. There was a lot of stuff from the first job that I was able to trash, though I did keep all the work samples. I seriously doubt that work I did more than twenty years ago would be considered relevant for any job hunting I did now, in case the writing thing doesn't work out, but I like the idea of having them, just in case. I can always use this kind of stuff for career day-type talks. The high school memento box is pretty small, so I may make decisions on that later. I don't have kids to show these to, but again, since I'm now writing some YA I may be able to use that to show kids what I was doing at their age.

I did have one fun discovery in the first job box. I had the materials from a conference I went to in 1993 on my first trip to Washington, D.C. It was a conference for university PR and communications professionals, and I'm pretty sure I was the youngest person there. During the opening session, I looked around the room at the other attendees and noticed that there was one youngish guy who was kind of cute. I found myself daydreaming about how cool it would be if I could talk to him. And then during the first coffee break between sessions, I was totally surprised when he came up to me to talk. We ended up hanging around together for most of the rest of the conference, went to lunch on our own together that day and to dinner with a group that night. We made enough of a connection that we might have stayed in touch if e-mail had been more of a thing (I didn't get e-mail at work until the following year), but not enough of a connection to bother with long-distance phone calls or snail mail. I'd thought about him off and on over the years, mostly because that was one of the few instances where reality actually lived up to fantasy and came close to the novel that was playing out in my head, but he had a tricky last name, so all I remembered about him was his first name and where he worked. So when I found that conference folder, it turned out to have a roster of conference attendees, so I saw his last name. On a whim, I Googled him, and it turns out that he's become rather well-known. He contributes to a major newspaper and has written a couple of non-fiction books. I'd actually heard of him, but hadn't made the connection with the guy from the conference, probably because what I'd read didn't include photos and the subject he ended up specializing in wasn't something that came up in conversation. With the photos, I'm sure it's the same guy. It was kind of nice getting that trip back down memory lane to a really good time and to find out that he's done so well (and is still cute, but married now). I guess neither of us stayed in university PR. Some of my friends have been saying I should contact him, but I suspect that conference was far more meaningful to me than it was to him and I don't expect him to remember it at all, and I don't want to come across as a creepy stalker.

Now off to crawl under a blanket with my reference books.