Tuesday, March 31, 2015


I didn't quite make it through the novelettes for the Nebula Awards, but I did manage to read the short stories and novellas. It seems like having Socially Conscious Content is key to a nomination -- sort of the literary equivalent of the Afterschool Special -- but the stories I found most compelling and best written cleverly hid any agenda they might have had within the plot and characters. I like being left to draw my own conclusions about what -- if anything -- someone is saying with a story rather than feeling like it was a reading assignment for school and I was going to get a worksheet with questions like "What was the message of this story?"

I still want to read the nominated novelettes because that's a length I might be able to play with for some of my failed attempts at short stories, where they end up too long to be short but don't have enough material to be a full novel.

After I finish writing the current project (and maybe a few others).

I spent yesterday retconning my own book. For those unfamiliar with the term, it's something that comes up in TV discussion and is short for "retroactive continuity." It's what happens when writers come up with something new later in a story that changes the perception of things that came beforehand, and there's usually a lot of debate as to whether it was planned all along or something the writers came up with later and then retroactively applied to the story. A hypothetical example would be if a character in a TV series turned out to have been a villain all along who'd infiltrated the good guys to spy on them. Was it a retcon where they only now decided that the character was a villain all along, or was the character written as a villain from the start and they just didn't reveal it? A retcon isn't necessarily bad as long as it doesn't contradict things that happened before. In fact, it can be a brilliant bit of writing if a clever writer looks at past events and sees enough of a pattern to create an alternative explanation. Then it feels like it's more of a revelation than writer whim. It is bad if it contradicts things that came before or makes characters act wildly out of character. The audience reaction should be more "Ohhh, of course, that explains everything" than "Seriously?"

In my case, it's more to do with worldbuilding and coming up with a new explanation for why things have been the way they are, which then allows me to change the status quo because that reason changes. It doesn't at all contradict the books in this series that have already been published, so I just need to fix the parts where it applies in this book, and I think it's just going to be a tweak or two. Where it matters is going forward when they have to fix it.

And all of this came from one scene I wanted to write that then made me realize what was really happening, then digging into why it was happening revealed all that stuff.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Weekend Recovery

I had a busy weekend, and it was all fun stuff rather than obligation stuff, but still, there's something about barely being home during waking hours all weekend that leaves me kind of needing a weekend to recover from the weekend. It's going to be a busy week, since it's Holy Week, and that means extra stuff going on at church. I've already decided that I'm not doing anything on Saturday, since I have a busy Friday and a busy Sunday, and I've been really busy on the past few Saturdays.

But on the up side, I don't have to teach children's choir this week, and we aren't having yoga next Monday morning, so I can sleep in on the day after Easter.

Today I want to get back into writing, but I also need to do some frantic reading, as today is the Nebula Awards voting deadline and I haven't finished reading the nominated short stories, novellas, etc.

The book I'm working on took a rather unexpected twist on Friday that may end up changing the plot, so a lot of today's work will involve figuring out how it applies. I like the twist, and it may be a case of me realizing that this is what's been going on all along. I'll need to figure out what the danger/urgency is and how it should be dealt with.

This series has been weird for me in that way. Normally I'm a plotter. I outline the story, and it follows pretty close to that outline. This series meanders, and I end up having to write half the book to figure out what it's about -- and that's after I've done all kinds of plotting and outlining. I keep discovering new things lurking just out of sight and then have to go back and rewrite to work them in. It's a frustrating process for someone who is usually rather linear.

Especially on a day when I kind of just want to nap.

Friday, March 27, 2015

TV Nerd News

I wrote a very fun "battle" scene yesterday that was all in the subtext, and it was so much fun, but I found myself utterly drained at the end of it. I'm also starting to think that writing Sophie Drake and reading Granny Weatherwax at the same time might be kind of dangerous. They really are two of a kind, just separated by a world, a primary career and a few decades. If I keep this up, soon I'll be expecting the universe to reshape itself around me.

This week, the big nerd news was that they're bringing back The X-Files for a limited run. There was a day when I would have been overjoyed. I was a huge X-Files fan. I went to a convention. I have a coffee mug I won in a trivia contest. I have Cancer Man's autograph. But the show ended up fizzling and squandering a lot of the good feelings I had by really bungling the overall story line, and I've since moved on. I didn't get around to seeing the second movie. In my recent videotape purge, I got rid of the entire series that I'd taped because I haven't watched a single episode in more than ten years. I'm not sure I'll even watch the revival out of curiosity.

Then they announced that next season will be the end of Downton Abbey, and I'm okay with that. I enjoy the series, but it's never been as good as it was in the first season, and I think they're running out of plots because they're repeating themselves. They're also losing cast members left and right, which means some stories don't get developed or concluded. Poor Lady Mary, all her guys seem to want to move on to other things. Or maybe they've figured out that she's actually Susan, Death's granddaughter, in disguise and are fleeing in terror.

It's a lovely spring day so I think there will be writing on the patio this afternoon.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Torturing Small Children

I went through on my threat to make the kids sit in chairs at choir last night, and it sort of worked. There was less running around and hitting, though there were still a lot of behavior issues. The kids actually seemed to like sitting in the chairs. But there were still enough problems that stickers were withheld (to a kindergartener, that's practically capital punishment). There was the kid who was flailing around so much when we were rehearsing in the sanctuary that he hit another kid. There was the one who refused to sing and then sang the word "poop" over and over to the tune of the song. There was the kid who picked a giant scab off her elbow to make it bleed so she could get a Band-Aid. Apparently, little kids really, really like Band-Aids, so if there was no "you only get a bandage if it's bleeding" rule, they would basically all be mummies, wrapped entirely in bandages for all kinds of imagined owies. But then that leads to minor self-mutilation among the more devoted bandage fans who don't fear a little blood and pain in pursuit of the precious Band-Aid. Even one of our usually good kids got sent into the hall for a time out (I'm not sure what he did, but his mom is the other teacher, and she was the one who made him take a break). And when when we tried to do a circle game, it had to be cancelled when they were unable to form a circle. Our little diva inserted herself in the middle, refusing to be part of the circle itself, and then two other kids refused to join the circle because they couldn't hold one of the youth helper's hands (other kids were already there). That was when they were told that they could go sit on the chairs until their parents came (five minutes before the end of class) and there would be no stickers. There were a couple of kids actually behaving well, and I hated to essentially punish them, too, but I know from personal experience that it can be bad to single kids out for doing well, and maybe there will be some positive peer pressure if the kids are the ones telling the misbehavers to knock it off instead of giggling at their antics. They're singing in church Sunday morning, and I have no idea how that's going to go. They're usually pretty good when their parents are watching. And then I get a week off, and only four weeks after that. Not that I'm counting.

I'm totally counting.

Until then, I may have to give up on much writing productivity on Wednesdays. There's lesson planning and then practicing my own music, and then there's the dread looming over me all day. I'm hoping to get back on track today because I came up with what will happen in the next scene, and it should be delicious torture for poor Sophie, who will be forced to hold her tongue and play nice. My ability to write subtext will be stretched to the max because it should be one of those scenes where the surface conversation is relatively pleasant, while everything beneath it is along the lines of "DIE, BITCH."

And I have a whole day in which I don't have to leave the house and have zero obligations. Let's see how much I can get done. I'm about a third of the way through the book now, maybe a little more, depending on how long it ends up being.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Naming Characters

I finally got my Once Upon a Time episode and got back on my forums, but I still managed to hit my writing quota of the day -- and while at my desk, connected to the Internet. I haven't written much at my desk in years. I usually disconnect and take the laptop elsewhere.

Now, for a writing post. This week, I have another reader question, about naming characters. I've seen some writers giving what they seem to believe are absolute rules about this, but I hesitate to be an absolute authority. Instead, I'll mention some things that work for me both as a writer and as a reader.

I do like names to have some meaning. I don't want to go overboard and have every single name be literally significant, but I do like the sense behind the name to fit the character. I have one of those "what to name your baby" books and will flip through it when I'm naming characters. The meaning and history of the names does play a role in my final decision. I often make a list of potential names for a character and try them out to see which one seems to fit best.

One thing that is important is that a name shouldn't be a stumbling block for a reader. If a major character's name is impossible to pronounce, even mentally, then it may be hard for readers to get into the book. It's difficult to develop any emotional connection to a character you have to think of as "that guy." And if readers are unsure how to say a character's name, they may be less likely to talk about the book, which means you get less word of mouth. If you really need to use a difficult name, you can help by providing a kind of pronunciation guide within the text, like another character mispronouncing it and getting corrected on the right way to say it. Be judicious about the use of alternate spellings or inserting things like apostrophes as a way to turn a common name into something more exotic.

You also don't want to get confusing. I've heard writers say that you shouldn't have two characters in the same book whose names begin with the same letter. I wouldn't take it that far, as long as there's some other variety. I know of too many families who go with naming schemes, naming every child something that begins with the same letter. Doing that is a good way to show who belongs to the same family. In my current series, I deliberately gave a set of sisters names starting with the same letter, but they're not the main characters and they usually function as a unit. I think most readers are smart enough not to get confused because there's one character named Jared and another named John, so there's no reason to avoid all names beginning with the same letter. You just probably don't want all your main characters to be named Jared, John, Julia, and James.

On a related note, you should probably limit the number of names a character is known by unless you have an actual plot reason for multiple identities and want to throw off the reader. Fantasy can be particularly bad about that, with some characters having titles that they're called by, while they're also known in some places by their last names and in other places by their first names, and then in still other places known by nicknames, and then their enemies call them derogatory names. You shouldn't need a chart to keep track of one character.

Names can be an important part of worldbuilding. People from the same race or culture may have particular naming conventions or types of names, while you might find more diversity of names in a melting pot kind of society. I like to look for names from a similar ethnic family in the real world when I'm naming people in a culture even in a made-up world. Names also go in and out of fashion in time. When I was writing my upcoming steampunk book set in an alternate version of the Victorian era, I looked up names that would have been in common use at that time. For instance, botanical names were very popular in that era, so you saw a lot of girls whose names came from flowers and other plants. As a result, I've got an Olive and a Flora. When writing something set in the past, it's worth checking to make sure that name even existed then, whether or not it was common. It's okay to use an odd or uncommon name, but probably best not to use one that hadn't even been recorded at that time.

I also like to Google potential first/last name combinations. I'm not too worried about there being one or two random people out there who might have the same name, as long as they're well outside my circle. I do worry about historical figures, minor celebrities and characters in other books/movies/TV shows. Sometimes there's a reason that name combination popped into your head, and it may be that you've heard it somewhere before.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

My Writing Themes

Either it's a temporary fluke or my summer body clock schedule has kicked in early because I was up earlier than normal again this morning, without setting an alarm. I don't know what I'll do with all this extra time. Because OnDemand remained on the fritz, I couldn't do my usual online TV analysis, so I got a lot of writing done yesterday. This morning I've already washed my sheets and towels and done my usual morning Internet stuff (minus TV discussion), so I guess I'll be ready to run errands when the sheets and towels come out of the dryer, and then I'll have the afternoon free to work. Or else I'll give in and get the episode via Amazon or iTunes and make up for lost time online.

A few days ago, an online writing group I'm part of got into a discussion about themes in our work. I don't consciously put any particular theme in my writing, but thinking about it made me notice a few patterns. It's possible that more objective people will notice even more that I'm not aware of, but here are a few I've identified:

1) One really odd one: The heroine of every novel I've had published has an -ie or -y name. Just in the last two series, there's been Katie, and then Sophie and Emily, and then in the upcoming steampunk book it's Verity. I forgot the names of the heroines of my romance novels, but it also applies to them. I don't do this on purpose (I don't have a name like that). I do write heroines with different names, but those books haven't sold. This is now making me a little superstitious. Part of me wants to break the pattern, but part of me is worried that I'd be jinxing myself.

2) I think if there is any kind of personal, overarching theme to my books, it's something to do with finding one's place in the world. Sometimes that's about being an outsider, sometimes it's about discovering gifts or talents and how they should be used, and sometimes it's about finding a niche. I do tend to write about people who don't quite fit perfectly anywhere, and that probably does come from me. I always seem to be a bit of an oddball, no matter where I go. I'm a little too "normal" in geeky crowds (I'm kind of a stealth geek), but too geeky in non-geek groups. I'm not quite as pious as a lot of people in church groups (as in, I prefer "secular" entertainment rather than anything falling into the "inspirational" category -- though this has become better since I switched from Baptist to Methodist), but I'm far more religious than anyone outside of church groups (probably the biggest reason I'm still single because finding that balance is difficult, and yet it's pretty critical for me in a person I could live with). Growing up, I was always the newcomer. Feeling out of place wherever I go is practically my comfort zone, so that's where I seem to stick my characters. There's also a lot of story potential there because the conflict is inherent.

3) I tend to write heroines who have difficult relationships with their mothers -- not abusive or dark, just a personality clash. This is something that doesn't come from me, as I have a great relationship with my mother. This has mostly been generated by the particular stories I've been telling. I'd established Katie as a very down-to-earth, practical person, so when I introduced her mother, I thought I'd get a lot more comedy out of making her mother be the total opposite and be somewhat flighty and histrionic. With Sophie, a key part of her personality is her feeling obligated to take care of people, and that was a huge part of the situation she found herself in, so I had to give her a very clingy, dependent mother who was willing to let her daughter take care of her. I wouldn't have had as much story if her mom had been more compatible with her. This has barely shown up in the books yet, but I have this whole mental backstory about Mari, Michael's police partner, who ended up moving in with her mother and paying rent so her mother could stay in her home in the very expensive New York real estate market, and we have the case of two very strong-willed women, one very traditional and one very much not, living under one roof and driving each other insane. I do break the pattern in the upcoming steampunk book, where my heroine had a good relationship with her mother. It's her father who's the problem, for plot reasons.

4) I tend to write nice, boy-next-door guys. I've never seen the appeal of the bad boy, either in real life or in fiction, so this isn't a character I'm drawn to writing. I get so tired of all the so-called "alpha" men who are basically jerks. Since I'm not writing genre romance where the conflict between hero and heroine is the core of the story and instead am doing the "you and me against the world" story where they're taking on some other conflict together, I think I can get away with having a more low-key guy. I did try to add a little more "alpha" to Michael in the Fairy Tale series by making him a cop, but then I turned around and made him so much a straight arrow that it's become something he's teased about as a cop. I think I've somewhat moved away from the "Best Friend" archetype in the steampunk book, but it's hard to say more there because these guys aren't quite exactly what they seem to be. I do have a story planned with a hero who's more of a charming rogue type, but we'll see how he shapes up once I actually start writing him.

5) I seem to write about New York a lot, and again, that's not something I actually set out to do. I've written books in other settings, but they haven't sold. I guess I think of New York as some kind of magical fantasy realm. You expect to see strange stuff just around the corner. I can't imagine the same thing about Dallas. I ended up setting the steampunk book there, too, because I was using an alternate version of the Gilded Age for a setting, so I needed those Fifth Avenue mansions and the whole social set, contrasted with the tenements. But after this series, I do have ideas for an alternate world "traditional" fantasy, an alternate world whose setting is more or less Not!London, and something set in the English countryside. I have an inkling for a paranormal mystery series set in central Texas, so that would be a switch.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Good-bye, Mary Poppins!

The show is now over, and I get my life (such as it is) back. At the Sunday evening performance, I got a chance to sort of actually watch the show. There are big gaps between chorus numbers, so I was able to sneak into the auditorium and stand at the back to watch a few of the other scenes, enough to get a sense of what it really looked like and sounded like, and then I was sitting in the front row of the chorus, so I could see the TV monitor for the rest of the show, and I knew the music well enough that I wasn't glued to my folder. The kids did a really good job, I think, and I was really impressed with some of the technical elements. I tend to get a bit weepy from live theater, probably feeding off all that emotion, and the end of the show when Mary Poppins leaves is a bit of a tearjerker, but last night I was sitting directly across from two of the little sixth-grade girls in the chorus, who were in their chimney sweep garb, ready for the final bows. They were watching the end of the show on the monitor and just bawling their eyes out -- probably a mix of crying about what was happening in the show and realizing that it was all coming to an end -- and watching little girls cry was making me cry worse. They've already decided that they'll be doing the Rodgers and Hammerstein Cinderella next year. In addition to singing, this was my first time to be a "patron of the arts," as I helped sponsor the show. I consider that sort of a business expense as a young adult novelist to be involved in teen activities.

But for now, I'm really looking forward to not going anywhere tonight. I really got on a roll with writing last week and passed the 1/4 mark on the book Friday night, so now I seem to be picking up steam. It's a lovely spring day, so I plan to work on the patio as much as possible. I originally typed "plan" as "play," so my brain may have other intentions. But my productivity will likely be vastly improved by the fact that my recording of last night's Once Upon a Time failed and it's not up yet OnDemand, so I will have to do something today other than bitch about it at length. I will confess I checked OnDemand when I got up this morning because the plan was to watch before yoga. It still wasn't up after yoga. If it's available at lunch I'll have to make a decision of whether to watch it then or make myself wait until the evening as a reward for working, but then all the quality bitching will already have been done. Except the 20 minutes I did get to see of the beginning was actually reasonably good. I'm sure they'll have managed to completely fail to pay off everything they set up and they will have spent large amounts of screen time on things that ended up being meaningless, but the opening of this episode showed promise.

Otherwise, I need to work on my taxes because I'll probably need my tax return for last year to qualify for a mortgage. Wheee!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Home for the Day

I'm done with musical rehearsals and just have performances to go, which means I have a day to myself today with nowhere to go. And bonus, it's raining! I hope to get some serious writing done. I'm also hoping they work out some of the kinks on opening night because last night was … interesting. They have the chorus and orchestra set up backstage, with microphones on us. Theoretically, we also have monitors that the cast mics are coming through, except that only seemed to be working with a couple of the mics. When we just had the keyboard in earlier rehearsals, we could still hear from the stage, but when we have instruments blasting directly at us, we can't hear anything, and it's nearly impossible to sing backup to someone you can't hear.

But the musicians were pretty cool. They noticed that I was reading Hogfather and had a nice chat about Terry Pratchett and fantasy books in general. I also learned from the woman who's teaching recorders to the older kids in the children's music program (the first through fifth grade kids do a rotation where they do recorders, guitar, and singing) that she couldn't get the kids to shut up long enough for her to teach them anything this week, so it wasn't just me having problems.

There are long gaps between chorus numbers, so I'm getting some good reading time in, using the clip-on light on my music folder. I was knitting during earlier rehearsals, but we're so cramped backstage that it's hard to juggle that, and in the dark it would be even harder since you can't really clip a light to the knitting, and it's hard to hold the folder and knit.

But for today, I think there will be some baking, as I bought ingredients for Irish soda bread for St. Patrick's Day but didn't make it then, and today's more of a bread kind of day. Then I will spend much of today either on the couch downstairs or the chaise upstairs (haven't decided yet), writing, and then Grimm is back tonight, and then I may write some more, or else I'll watch a movie, or read, or just enjoy being home.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Just a Spoon Full of Arsenic ...

Yep, yesterday was pretty much a lost day. My thinker was broken, so no real writing happened. I did work on music and did some lesson planning. But after choir rehearsal I just went home instead of going to the musical rehearsal. I was losing my voice and there was less than an hour left, so I figured it was better to rest and be ready for dress rehearsal tonight. I had nothing left after dealing with the kindergarteners, who were being little pills. One or two were being little sociopaths. Our teen helper had knee surgery last month. She's back to walking, but she's not at full strength, and these little demons were slamming into her legs and trying to pull her down to the ground. She asked them not to do that. It didn't deter them. I stepped in and explained that she just had surgery and they were hurting her, that it wasn't fun and this wasn't playing. A couple of them went right back to doing it. I then declared that all people in the room were lava, so no one could touch anyone else. That sort of helped, but then there were those going around and deliberately touching others so they could burn them. And there was the usual running around and screaming instead of listening. I think I'm going to be horribly cruel next week and line up chairs and make them sit, like in a regular choir rehearsal. That's what they'll get next year, anyway. If they're good, they may be allowed to use those chairs for musical chairs at the end of class, but otherwise, we may sit, since we have a song we'll need to sing in church the following Sunday. I just have six more sessions. We'll see if I survive.

Or if they survive. I'm re-reading Hogfather now because that's a "Susan as governess" book, with a fair amount of spoofing Mary Poppins, and I figure that's appropriate reading for backstage during Mary Poppins. I'm also getting ideas for dealing with kids, but I don't think I can get away with threatening to tie their elbows together behind their ears. These kids wouldn't even listen long enough to realize I was threatening them, and if they did, it would just give them ideas for what to do to each other. Incidentally, today is Terry Pratchett's birthday, according to my Facebook notifications. I think I have sent birthday greetings in the past, but it seems a little weird to do so now.

Today I hope to get back to writing, since I have an idea for something that should have happened in the last scene I wrote. And I need to figure out how this new thing I've figured out affects the overall plot. Then I will have my final rehearsal (yay!). I'm also going to run my errands today so I don't have to leave the house at all tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Making it Through the Week

Oh dear, it's only Wednesday. This is going to be a long week. But I shouldn't have to leave the house or deal with people on Friday, so I'm hanging on.

But I am making progress this week. I spent a good part of yesterday afternoon writing, and new words, not revising. I also stumbled upon an idea that sent at least part of the story off in a new direction. Just imagine what I might be able to accomplish next week when I don't have to be at a rehearsal every night at 6:30.

And I got my first "review" on the upcoming steampunk book, as someone who got an advance copy tweeted about loving it -- and they tagged the publisher, which is nice. It's good that buzz is starting this far out from release. Let's just hope people don't forget before July.

I anticipate getting a lot less done today because I have children's choir, choir, and then whatever's left of musical rehearsal after choir, and I have to do a lesson plan for children's choir and practice some music for choir, and I'm just really tired and rather sleepy, so I'm cutting myself some slack. But it feels really great to be making forward progress again.

I must say that so far I seem to have found the right combination of time management techniques for me. I'm setting an appointment to write, which helps me get started, and then the "pomodoro" technique, somewhat modified, is also working. That's where you spend 25 minutes working on something, then 5 minute break, then another 25 minute work session, and after three blocks you get a half-hour break. There's another theory/study that apparently people get the most impact out of doing two 90-minute intense sessions of something like music practice or creative work, and that ties into this. The trick is that the five-minute break really has to be just five minutes (or less), only enough time to walk around a little, stretch, and refill the tea cup, and the work sessions have to be actual work time, not setting up the workspace, checking e-mail, etc. I'm not quite making it to the two 90-minute sessions because my afternoons are cut short, but I'm doing closer to one 90-minute session, then another hour-long session, and then maybe some thinking/plotting time. I did some of my plotting last night during a long stretch in the show rehearsal between scenes where I have to sing.

I look forward to seeing how much progress I can make next week when I don't have so much going on. I have so many things I want to get written, and to do that, I need to write.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Time for the Tinfoil Hat

I had a pretty productive day yesterday: yoga, grocery shopping, meeting my writing time quota (yay! First time in ages!), then youth musical rehearsal. Oh, and I actually cooked dinner and managed to make my bed before leaving for yoga in the morning. Today's shaping up to be as good, since I've already washed a load of sheets and just put in a load of towels and I've cleaned the bathtub. I should be able to manage some cleaning/organizing work before I get to writing in the afternoon.

I'm still in the rewriting/fixing phase of dealing with what I've already written, but that's involved deleting scenes, writing new scenes, and deleting chunks of scenes to write new scenes, so there's been new writing. I may make it to the end of what I have written today. Sort of, as there's one scene that I think may be moved to later in the book, but there will likely be about 20,000 new words written before I get there, so I'm not sure it counts. It may rain later today, but right now it's such a pretty day that I may put up the patio umbrella and work outside.

Something I forgot to mention in my discussion of the new Cinderella movie: I may need to get out the tinfoil hat again. Last year, as a kind of writing exercise I attempted to write a short story, and as is usual for me, it spiraled out of control until it no longer counted as "short," which meant the ending was terribly rushed because I realized it needed to stop, right away. Then I put it aside because I wasn't sure what to do with it. This story was something of a spinoff of the Cinderella story, showing what was happening to some other people who were at the ball. I have not shown this story to anyone, even my mom (I keep forgetting to send it to her). Well, there was a scene in the Cinderella story that isn't in any version of the fairy tale I've read and that wasn't in the Disney animated version that was very, very similar to a scene in my story -- the same setting, the characters are doing essentially the same thing. And there's a character in the Cinderella movie who's given a name here (after never getting one in most versions of the tale, including the animated movie), and that name is the same as I named the main character in my story.

When I finish the current book, I may take another look at my story. I'll need to change the character's name because I don't want to look like I was copying and I don't want to confuse people who might think it's the character from the movie and I'm writing fan fiction. I'll need to flesh it out a bit and rework the ending, but if I'm not worried about length, I may have a novella or novelette that I can self publish (where I'd make a lot more money than I'd make trying to sell to a magazine).

But first, the current book. However, this renewed interest in another project is a good sign because it means the creative part of my brain is waking up again. I also had a dream last night about writing a "gothic" type story -- one of those creepy old house with a mystery stories. I wish I could remember more of what the story was actually about. I just remember that somehow I ended up inside the story and knew it was the story I was working on.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Romantic Fantasy Movie Weekend

Spring break is over, so I'm back to my usual activities this week, plus more, because it's performance week for Mary Poppins, and that means I have to be at rehearsals every night. I'm already whimpering a little. But I started the week right with a yoga class, only that made me so relaxed that I want to go to sleep. But I can't because I'm determined to get some work done today. I do have my plumbing problems solved, which is nice. I have really hard water that tends to corrode metal, so my bathroom faucet was in bad shape and I had to wrestle it a bit to shut it off. It's so nice to just turn the handle. And the bathtub drain/plug assembly was a mess, but now I can properly plug the tub. I celebrated with a bath last night, since all the water stayed in the tub until I removed the plug. Luxury!

I saw the new version of Cinderella on Friday, and I really loved it. I always loved the animated movie, and this is to some extent just a remake because it mostly follows the same story beats, only there's a bit more depth to it. There's more getting into Cinderella's mindset of how she ended up in the situation she's in. They show the transition instead of cutting straight from happy family to her being a servant. It has a lot to do with the way that people who have a sense of responsibility and who try to be kind get taken advantage of by selfish people. Then there's a lot more substance to Cinderella's relationship with the prince, which is aided by the fact that the prince gets to be an actual character. It was charming and romantic, with gorgeous costumes, scenery and music and I'll be buying it on Blu-Ray when it comes out.

There is some meta amusement from the casting, with Agent Carter playing Cinderella's mother and teaching her valuable life lessons (though, sadly, none about punching people in the face), and we had an odd little Downton Abbey meets Game of Thrones mash-up, with Cinderella and one of her stepsisters being from Downton Abbey (in an upstairs/downstairs role reversal) and the prince and his buddy being from Game of Thrones. That led to an unintentionally funny bit when the prince -- played by the actor who played Robb Stark -- declares that he wants to marry for love rather than to fulfill a treaty, and you can't help but shudder and say "oh yeah, that's not gonna go well." You can just see the sequel writing itself, in which the princess he was supposed to marry invites him and his bride to attend a wedding.

If you're a fan of the animated version, stay all the way through the closing credits for some familiar songs (though it means sitting through the obligatory awful pop song first).

This weekend I also watched Stardust again, so I guess it was romantic fantasy film weekend. There was an article at tor.com about Ladyhawke that makes me want to rewatch that one, too. I just wish they'd do a "special edition" with a more appropriate score because the soundtrack just about ruins that movie.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Twitter Shyness

I have a plumber downstairs making interesting sounds. He's replacing the water supply valves under the kitchen sink, which were badly corroded by the nasty hard water here, to the point the guys installing the dishwasher weren't sure they could turn the valves enough to make the connection. In fact, most of the repairs needed today are caused by the extreme amount of lime in the water. It makes me wonder what it's doing to me on the inside. I don't really have a place to install a water softener here, but I wonder if the regular houses have them. That's something to look into.

After this repair, I'm down to minor things, though when I opened the blinds yesterday I found that I may need to replace a window because the seal in the double-paned windows seems to have broken, with condensation between the panes. Then I'll get the fun of seeing if I can get approved for a mortgage. Apparently that can be interesting/difficult for self-employed people. I'm hoping that the fact that I've already had a mortgage for the whole time I've been self-employed, will likely be sticking with the same company, and that company has been sending me letters suggesting I refinance with them will count for something. This would just be more or less refinancing while switching houses.

So, I've made it through the first week of my Twitter experiment. Results are very mixed as to whether there really is any bump from activity. I have all of 45 followers. I also seem to have a raging case of Twitter shyness, where I feel like something of a fangirl stalker if I follow people, and I feel like I'm trying to piggyback on their fame or ride their coattails if I do something like reply to them or retweet them. I know, I know, that's how this works. Being reserved doesn't get you anywhere in social media. The wacky thing is, some of these people I've actually met. I've been on convention panels with them. But I'm holding back, like I don't want to be the obnoxious "hey, remember me" person.

I probably need to make better use of hashtags for visibility that isn't capitalizing on other people's fame.

Or I could just hide out and actually write instead of stressing too much over all this stuff.

It sounds like there's some kind of cutting torch action going on downstairs. Must resist the urge to investigate. I wouldn't want to startle him while he has his head under the sink.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Stories Left Untold

My planned topic for today, whatever it was (and if I even had a plan other than a few random thoughts flitting around) vanished when I got on Twitter this morning, apparently just minutes after the official announcement of Terry Pratchett's death. It's not a huge surprise, as it's been known for a while that he had a form of early-onset Alzheimer's disease. I just hadn't realized that the end was possibly so near. Although I do have some mutual friends and was a Facebook friend (because of the mutual friends, when I got on Facebook he popped up in the "people you might also know" thing, and I figured what the heck and sent a friend request, which was accepted), I never actually really interacted with him, so my main reaction is a sense of loss of the stories that will never be told.

In case you haven't read it (and you really should), the Discworld series is a vast, sprawling conglomeration of stories set in a particular world that's a lot like our own in many respects but that's also got all the elements we're used to seeing in fantasy stories -- dwarfs, trolls, vampires, werewolves, kings, dungeons, wizards, witches, etc. It's the kind of thing that manages to be both a brilliant satire and a good example of the thing it's satirizing, but the satire extends into the real world to mock our own institutions. And it's funny. Really, really, laugh-out-loud to the point of disturbing the neighbors funny. These are the kinds of books you have to re-read multiple times -- first time for the story, to find out what happens. Next time to pick up on all the satire and social commentary. Then later to catch all the little jokes you missed while reading for the story, characters and social commentary. I've found myself laughing out loud at a throwaway line I just noticed in a book I've read at least five times.

Within this same universe, there were several "series" focusing on a particular aspect or group of characters, though some characters crossed over into multiple stories. There were the Witches books, the Wizards books, the Guards books, the Death books (though Death appeared in other books), and what I suppose you could call the "technology" books (mostly starring semi-reformed former(?) con man Moist von Lipwig). I love Death as a character, but I probably was most invested in the Guards books, and I think that's where I'm feeling the loss because I got the sense that he was setting up something big and gradually heading toward it, and it looks like he didn't ever get there. So we won't know what will become of the young policeman who may actually be the long-lost king and who's starting to pull some pretty impressive strings behind the scenes, so far with only the best of intentions.

Though I suppose we did get one last story, as his Twitter feed announced his death in a way that fit with his books, with Death himself coming to take his arm and walk away with him into the night, with the final tweet being "the end." Here's the final story.

And now I think I'm getting a little weepy. Part of me suddenly wants to do a massive re-read, and part of me is afraid that might be a little too painful right now. Instead, I may just work on my own book because there are stories to be told.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Taking the Plunge

So, that 10-2 window for the plumber? He came after 5. And it was too late to do all the work I needed done. So now there's another appointment for (supposedly) first thing on Friday. This is probably not the best way to turn a new customer into a repeat customer.

Anyway, it's time for a writing post. This week, I had a question posed by a high school classmate: what do you do to get started once you've written a book? Taking the plunge into pursuing publication is probably scarier than looking at that blank page/screen to start writing a novel. The good news is that there may be more publication opportunities than ever before. That's also the bad news because it means you have to be even more knowledgable about the business than ever before in order to make good decisions.

The first thing you need to do is educate yourself about the business. There are whole categories of books at Amazon on publishing and the book business (the Writer's Market for the year is a good place to start). You can also find these books at a library. A lot of agents, editors and authors have blogs and Twitter accounts where you can get information.

Meanwhile, you need to educate yourself about the market and where your book might fit in. Are there any other books and authors out there that seem similar to yours in subject matter or tone, so that you think readers of these books might like yours? Visit a bookstore and browse to see what's out there. Do some Amazon searches and then follow the "people who bought this also bought these" rabbit trails. Take note of who the publishers are, how recently these books were published, how they're selling (the ranking ), number of reviews, etc. If you see a lot of books like yours, that could either mean this is a hot market or that it's a saturated market. If you see no books like yours, that could either mean there's no market or an untapped market. Your book could still sell, regardless, but it's good to know what's out there. Read the books you find and then take another look at yours to determine if it's really of publishable quality or if it needs more work.

Another way to educate yourself is to meet with other writers. Find a writing organization and attend meetings. Romance Writers of America and Mystery Writers of America allow unpublished members and tend to have local chapters with meetings. Many cities have writing groups. Attend a writing conference. There are some big ones sponsored by national organizations that focus on particular genres, and there are local and regional conferences that cover multiple genres. Many science fiction conventions include a writing workshop or have panels on writing and publishing. These can also be good networking opportunities, as publishing professionals often attend, and you may even be able to schedule a one-on-one session for pitching a project. An internet search will give you a lot of listings.

There are online communities, as well. Forums like the Absolute Write Water Cooler (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/) or Backspace (http://bksp.org/) give you a good place to meet online and learn about the business.

It does help to have done your research before you meet with other writers or publishing professionals. There's nothing more annoying than a new writer who just expects the more experienced people to present her with the keys to the universe when it's clear she's done absolutely no work on her own. Most of us remember the days -- years, even -- we spent reading books, going to conferences, etc., so we'd rather not spoon-feed others who expect to just be told everything they need to do. And never give a manuscript to an author, expecting feedback, unless you've been invited to do so.

Once you have some knowledge, you can make a decision about which path to publication you want to take. You can try submitting directly to a publisher, though fewer publishers these days are taking unagented submissions. This is more likely to work through smaller publishers (but research them carefully before you submit to make sure they're real publishers and not scams -- you should never have to pay money to a publisher). You can submit to agents, who will submit your work to major publishers. Or you can independently publish.

For more discussion on the differences between traditional publishing and independent publishing, look at a post I wrote last year on this topic: http://shanna-s.livejournal.com/2014/02/26/

My general recommendation is to at least try submitting traditionally first because it gives you a sense of where you fit in the market (are you being rejected for the quality of your work or because you don't fit a market niche?), it helps you build the thick skin you need to survive, and if you do sell a book this way, you can always decide to independently publish later, but you'll have that traditional publishing credential and more of an established audience that will help you stand out from the crowd. Don't think of independent publishing as any kind of shortcut. It's more like going into business, and you need to know even more about the industry than you do as an author going the traditional route.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Heroes and Villains

I am currently waiting on a plumber who is supposed to arrive between 10 and 2. This is one of the reasons I keep procrastinating dealing with this kind of thing or try to do it myself. I hate waiting during vague windows of time. But when this is over, I'll pretty much just be down to some minor repairs and some cleaning and my house will be ready to sell. Then the problem will be finding a new house. There was an article today about how there's a severe shortage of homes in my price range because they're only building more expensive homes. One reason there are few homes to buy is because there are few homes to buy -- people can't sell if they can't find a place to move to, so homes aren't going up for sale unless people are moving out or really moving up. I'm lucky to be in a position to be able to make a good down payment without having to sell my current house, so I guess I can afford to wait until I find something before I sell. And I guess I can keep saving money so maybe I can afford something more expensive.

Which means earning more. My Twitter experiment results were inconclusive. The Amazon ranking didn't improve with each tweet, as it seemed to do over the weekend, but it did rise at the end of the day. Maybe there's a slower tweet-to-sale correlation on a weekday? I do have a few more followers. I'll keep at it.

I also managed a big brainstorming session. The elements that were missing are falling into place, and I think the book can take off from here. I'm even starting to see the "movie" of this book in my head and imagine scenes I haven't written yet. Incidentally, this is why I don't have an Enchanted Inc. book 8 on the horizon. I know some general things that could potentially happen, but nothing that amounts to a plot, and the main thing is that I'm not seeing those characters doing anything. No scenes have come to mind, and I've tried. I've even tried picturing some "doing laundry" type scenes that aren't plot-specific, and nada. I guess they're still resting.

Meanwhile, I've started reading my way through the Nebula ballot, and while I did find one fun thing, the rest have been pretty bleak. I actually put a book down last night because I realized it was making me so miserable that I couldn't even put my "this really isn't my cup of tea" bias aside to judge it on any objective merits. One book I got through, but it was kind of like reading an entire book-length Facebook post by one of those people who thinks all other people suck and aren't nearly as smart or deep as she is, and who demonizes everyone who disagrees with her on the tiniest little thing and explodes it out of proportion.

I guess this sort of thing is considered "literary merit."

I'll just keep writing fun stories about good people fighting against bad people because it's the right thing to do. I'm not going to tear down my heroes to show that they're just as bad as the villains and call it "complexity."

And what's up with that, anyway? I've noticed that there's this weird moral equivalency thing they tend to do, especially on TV, where they try to show that the villains aren't so bad because the heroes are also bad. Except the way it comes across is that the heroes do one minor thing wrong, and they're declared to be just as bad as the villains. But the villains can do one good thing or have something bad happen to them, and they become a sainted martyr. It's like the villains can slaughter an entire village but save a puppy and have been given a mean look by a hero, and that changes the entire equation, so now they're heroes and victims. But the heroes can jaywalk and get angry at the villains who've murdered their entire families and see, they're just as bad as the villains are -- or worse!

Now, some of this is the way fans perceive it, as any "misunderstood" villain played by an attractive actor, particularly one who gets fun, snarky lines, is going to have a legion of fans prepared to excuse his every move and eager to give him all the love and cuddles he needs to heal his inner wounds, and this has nothing to do with the writing. It's been amusing watching J.K. Rowling's frustration with the way fans perceive Draco Malfoy. She's like "But he's a creep and a jerk! And look, there's Harry! He's good, and he's also played by a cute actor!"

But then there are the writers who also do this, which is why I'm in hate-watch mode with Once Upon a Time, where the writers are the ones making excuses for the villains, and they seem to have a huge blind spot about this. The villains do things like commit mass murder or destroy an entire society, but it's excused because something bad once happened to them, and it's all the heroes' fault, so really, the heroes are just as bad. But then we find out that the bad thing was something like telling a secret as a child, or exposing a lie, or refusing to trust someone who was being evil. Now they seem to be trying to actively tear down their good characters while the villains suffer nobly and are considered to be robbed because they aren't just being handed happy endings.

As a Christian, I believe in redemption, and I love a good redemption story. But a big part of redemption is acknowledging that you were wrong and repenting of that, which involves some degree of remorse for the pain you've caused. Redemption also doesn't erase the consequences of your past behavior. It just means you move forward. A redemption story can be very satisfying, but that sense of justice does need to be maintained. This whole "the heroes are just as bad!" thing is very unsatisfying to watch. I don't think a hero has to be perfect. Perfect people are boring. Good people can make mistakes. The difference between a hero and a villain is how they react to mistakes or the bad things in their lives. A hero will feel bad about it and try to atone while a villain will have no conscience or will try to justify it.

I just really don't get the love for bad people and hatred for good people, so I guess my writing will remain uncool.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Blowing Up Tom Cruise

I had a pretty good and productive weekend. Saturday I got my bedroom cleaned -- and I mean really cleaned, almost to hotel standards. There's still a little stuff visible because I live there, but there's nothing on the floor but furniture and little on top of the furniture other than the stuff that goes there. It's a room that could be photographed for a house listing with very little change. I have to give credit to the Pomodoro Method of time management -- set a timer for 25 minutes, work on the task for that time, then take a five minute break before starting another 25 minutes (the technique is named for a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato). I managed to get the room cleaned in three sessions. I think this helped because I either thought of it as overwhelming or I'd make a swipe at it and then get discouraged. It was easier to start knowing I had that time limit and knowing I had to keep at it for that long, and then I made enough progress I wanted to keep going. I've tried this before with writing and my rhythm didn't really fit with the 25 minutes, but then again it's probably good to at least get up and move every 25 minutes, so I may try it again. Like, today, since it's good rainy writing weather.

Meanwhile, I'm hardly tearing up Twitter, with only 27 people following me so far, but I have noticed that my Amazon ranking seems to jump each time I post something. I'm going to try some experiments today to test that.

I also managed to get in some entertainment this weekend. Saturday night I went to the spring production of the ballet ensemble associated with my ballet school (it's considered a "pre-professional" group -- these are the kids who stand a chance at a dance career, and I'm pretty sure that one of them is a real rising star). It was a number of shorter pieces, including a Balanchine work, but the one that I found utterly mesmerizing was a modern ballet (pointe and mostly classical technique, but in modern forms to modern music) choreographed by one of the teachers at the school.

Friday night, I watched Edge of Tomorrow on HBO OnDemand, and it was a fun science fiction war movie that you might consider Groundhog Day meets Starship Troopers/Aliens. I didn't see it at the theater because I'm allergic to Tom Cruise (and this goes back to when I was a teen and he was supposedly a teen idol -- he's pretty much my physical type, but there's always been something about him that was offputting to me, mostly that he comes across as insincere and artificial), but it ended up being pretty good and quite satisfying for people who don't like Tom Cruise because he dies hundreds of times in this movie. It's kind of awesome.

Basically, there's been an alien invasion and the humans of earth have banded together in an all-out war to fight them off. Our boy Tom is a PR officer for the military. His job is to rally the public spirit, get people to enlist in the military and to get public support behind the war. There's been one big success fighting in France, and now they plan to follow that up with an invasion of France -- sort of D-Day, round two. Then the general tells him he'll be going in embedded with the troops so he call tell the story of the invasion. His response is essentially, "I don't do danger. PR, darling, PR." When he attempts to blackmail the general by saying he can ruin his reputation and then walks out, he finds himself arrested for desertion, tased when he tries to fight, and he wakes up on base with a sergeant screaming at him. And this is the Best Movie Ever. In spite of his protests that he isn't really a soldier and all this going in with the grunts is beneath him, he finds himself as part of the invasion (in the kind of mechanized suits that should have been in the movie version of Starship Troopers). It's a bloodbath. His squadmates are being slaughtered all around him. He even sees the woman who was the hero of the previous victory die. Then he gets killed, and it's a beautiful thing. Then he wakes up on base with a sergeant screaming at him. After doing this invasion thing a few hundred times, he's starting to get good at sidestepping the dangers and sometimes even saving people. When he saves the hero by warning her of something he knows will happen, she tells him to track her down when he wakes up. He does, an iteration or so later, and it turns out she's experienced what he's going through, she knows why it's happening, and she thinks they can use him to end the war.

This is where it gets fun. There's a training montage that's highly entertaining because when he screws up, gets tired or gets hurt too badly to keep going, she shoots him so he can reboot. They test their various plans by letting him try them, see what works, and then die and reboot. We don't necessarily see all the in-between stages because on the first time we see a sequence, he's already telling her what didn't work last time.

As someone who loves the Groundhog Day do-over trope and who has Aliens in my list of all-time favorite movies, I really ended up liking this movie. I loved the woman played by Emily Blunt. I'm not all that familiar with her outside Into the Woods and her and her husband's ongoing prank war with Jimmy Kimmel, who lives across the street, but her character here is in the Ripley mode. She is kind of the "Rambo in drag" flavor of "strong female character," but it's appropriate to the situation, and we can tell how she got that way. In fact, aside from one little bit (that I thought was unnecessary), it didn't really matter to the story that she was a woman. It was a character who happened to be played by a woman, and that's pretty cool.

Aside from the fact that much of the fun of the movie involved Tom Cruise dying horribly hundreds of times, I'd have to say that he was the weak link. It was fun to watch while I was watching it, but there was something missing. I did snark early in the movie when he was being a jerk that I bet he would be learning A Valuable Lesson. The problem was, I'm not sure he did. Yeah, he was a hero, saved the day, and all that, but his character arc was established at the beginning as someone who thought he was too good for combat. He was smugly superior to the grunts. But at the end of the day, he struck me as having really learned nothing. He was just smugly superior in a different way. The script even was structured as though to show he was learning something, like when he starts using his foreknowledge to save his fellow squadmates or when he uses things he's learned about them while repeating this same day to convince them of what's going on with them. I think that was supposed to show that he was starting to care about them and see them as people, but all we got was that usual Cruise smirkiness. The smug superiority was perfect for when he was in "PR, darling, PR, but I can't get my hands dirty" mode, but unfortunately I think that's his default, and he never managed to convey that he'd become one of the guys. I guess wanting more character depth in a movie that's basically about blowing up giant bugs and Tom Cruise is rather silly, but just a little more substance to his character, a trace of humanity, would have taken this movie up a level.

Bottom line: Even if you normally don't like Tom Cruise, make some popcorn and be ready to start counting deaths because this is in the same neighborhood as Aliens. Not quite as scary, not quite as deep, but it's a bughunt that plays games with time, which is something we don't get enough of.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Entering the Twitterverse

The snow is mostly gone, except for the drift against the north side of the wall and the tops of the bushes in front of my house. That's one thing I like about Texas snow, when we get it. We get one day of pristine white fluffiness, then it's generally gone practically overnight. We don't get that nasty gray gunk that piles up beside roads and stays for most of the winter like they get in colder climates. Next week it's supposed to be warm and springlike, and I am totally in favor of that, even though I generally like cold, gray weather.

I'm wrapping up the house cleaning project. I'm in the odd state right now where it actually looks a bit messier in places, but that's because the hidden places are now all organized and I just have to figure out what to do with the remaining clutter. Mostly, I need to throw it away, but getting the trash out has been a challenge lately. Now that the ice and snow are gone, I can make trips to the dumpster.

I have decided that, budget permitting, when I get a new house I'll get a maid service to do a monthly deep clean. That will force me to keep clutter under control all the time, since I'm the sort of person who cleans up before the maid comes. I think it may even be cost-effective in the long run because I'm terrible at the ongoing serious maintenance type stuff, and it's cheaper to hire someone to, say, give the floors a really good cleaning every month than to replace the floors.

In other news, I have finally taken the Twitter plunge. You can find me as @ShannaSwendson (yeah, I know, creative). I don't know how active or interactive I will be because I find it all very overwhelming, and terse wit is not my strong suit. I still need to figure out stuff about how hashtags really work and who I need to be following, and getting followers, and all that. Mostly it's an experiment for now.

And you can blame Taylor Swift. Why? Well, I had a bizarre dream the other night that I ran into Taylor Swift at some event, she took a selfie of us and posted it on Twitter, and then suddenly my book sales skyrocketed. I'm not entirely sure why I would dream about her because I'm not a fan. I'm not sure I'd recognize one of her songs. I might be able to pick her out of a lineup, but possibly not if she wasn't labeled and if she was alongside other young women of that type. It may have had something to do with a story about her on the news that evening, in which she did a Facetime call with a little girl with cancer who was a big fan.

Anyway, upon waking I realized that I'm not likely to just randomly run into huge celebrities who can boost my career. I have to take more steps on my own. Facebook has gone for the money grab, so you have to pay to have anyone see posts other than through your personal account. On Twitter, you do stand a slightly larger chance of having someone with a huge following retweet you or otherwise boost you. So, we'll see how this goes. I can see it becoming a huge time sink. If it doesn't do me much good, I'm giving myself permission to abandon it.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Overdoing the Snow Dance

I might have been a bit overzealous in my sleet dance, and it's possible I got my arms wrong (it happens all the time) and got a bit of snow dance in while I was at it because instead of (possibly in addition to) the 1 inch of sleet/freezing rain we were supposed to get, we got about six inches of snow. It transitioned to snow a lot earlier than they forecast, and it seemed to be falling pretty hard most of the night. A lot of the time, it was blowing horizontally from the north. My front door faces north, so I have a nice snowdrift against my front door.

Either way, I achieved my objective and they cancelled evening activities at the church. Good thing, too, because right at the time children's choir would have ended, the sleet started and there was already a glaze of ice on most surfaces. It was sleeting hard at the time adult choir would have ended. I also got a break on Mary Poppins rehearsals because even if they have a rehearsal tonight, the adults don't have to come. It sounds like the kids are going to be drilled in the scenes they're still having problems with. That means I get another evening of quality time with my sofa, which is good because unless things clear up a lot before tonight, I wouldn't have driven.

So, this is what it looked like just before I went to bed last night:

And this is my patio this morning.

Fortunately, the sun is out and it's supposed to get above freezing this afternoon, so it should be gone by tomorrow.

I didn't do as much writing as I hoped yesterday because it turns out that checking the radar and the weather conditions every five minutes is bad for your productivity (really!). I did review some parts I'd already written, and then I did some research on one thing and realized I've written myself into a bind with something already in the book that was published this week. I had Michael and his partner investigating a death in Central Park, and I'd thought that the precinct that covered that area would also include parts of the surrounding city. But the park is its own precinct, and they must be really bored there because the crime statistics are surprisingly low. It doesn't affect me too much because most of the cases I'd want to cover will be in the park, since the natural areas are where the fairy world and the human world intersect. I don't know if they'd actually have detectives assigned to that precinct, but if they did, I doubt they'd specialize in any one area. So not every case has to be a potential homicide.

Not that most crime shows or mysteries would bother about this. They generally have the hero detective investigating every crime in the city, in all five boroughs. And this is a series about fairies, so realism is already off the table. I just like to make the "real" stuff realistic. Really, all I need is for Mari, Michael's partner, to make a remark about them getting a cushy gig while he's coming back from an injury, and then they can also comment on the unusually high number of dead bodies they're coming across. Seriously, according to the crime stats, Central Park makes Mayberry look like a crime-ridden hellhole.

Now that I've cleared up that detail, maybe I'll get more work done today.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Doing the Sleet Dance

The paperback version of To Catch a Queen should now be listed on Amazon. There's something wonky with the way they have the series listed, but I think that's an Amazon glitch that I'm not sure I can get changed. I have reported it to my digital publishing person.

Maybe it was the book release that did it. Maybe it's because it's a cool (soon to be cold), rainy day. Maybe it's because I'm sick and tired of cleaning house. But I'm really in the mood to write today. So I think I will get back to book 3. I might also be kind of crossing my fingers really hard that they have to cancel children's choir because of weather. It's supposed to start sleeting this afternoon. For one thing, I don't want to be out in questionable and worsening conditions. For another, it would be nice to have a night in after the past couple of nights. I'm remembering why I gave up on doing theater a long time ago. The rehearsal schedule is just too much for me. I can't deal with having activities every night for weeks on end. Unfortunately, unless you're doing a show with all solos and monologues, you kind of have to practice with other people. You can't just learn your part at home. Hmm, maybe I need to look for a production of "The Last Five Years" to audition for. That's all solos except for one duet.

Though it really would help matters if all the cast members would learn their parts on their own. I think half the rehearsal time seems to be spent on people not knowing what they're supposed to be doing and then messing everyone else up, so they have to start over on a part to get it all together. And then there's the social media backstage issue that's leading to the stage manager banning cell phones among the cast, since people were missing their entrance cues because they were checking Facebook. That didn't exist the last time I did theater.

On the up side, I've been getting a lot of knitting done. I'm doing newborn baby hats for the county hospital, so they're small and portable and I can generally get most of one done during a rehearsal.

Now to go do my Sleet Dance so I don't have to deal with kids tonight and can maybe get some work done.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Happy Book Day to Me!

It's new book day! To Catch a Queen, book 2 in the Fairy Tale series, is out today. It seems to be showing up at most of the major online outlets, in paperback, e-book and audio (well, the paperback isn't quite yet up, but it should show up soon). So go forth and read! (And blog, tweet, Facebook, Goodreads, etc.)

You know, in my listing of crazy stuff this week, that one completely slipped my mind. I really should be doing more publicity.

But instead I spent last night at a Mary Poppins rehearsal. The show is coming together, but still has a way to go. I'm still not entirely sure what part I'm singing, since it's hard to tell where they need the fill-in. It sounds to me like they're weaker on the higher notes, so I've been singing first soprano. But then the second soprano part tends to be invisible, so you only notice it when it's gone.

The cutest thing last night, though, was an adorable little scene stealer. The mom and little sister of the kid playing Michael were watching the rehearsal. The little sister is about three, has bright red hair, and was dressed in an Anna's ballgown (from Frozen) costume, with pink cowboy boots. Her mom was sitting in back, but she sat in the front row, gazing totally rapt at the stage, but then when a big dance number started she got down from her seat and did all the steps -- in some cases, she seemed to have a better grip on the dance numbers than the teenagers did. I'd be tempted to put a chimney sweep costume on her and put her on stage, but then she really would steal the show, and it would probably create a monster.

My contribution to the show may end up being having a solution for Mrs. Banks's hair. The girl playing that role has long, curly hair a lot like mine. She has a big role so isn't doubling up in the chorus, except for the "Step in Time" number, where apparently she's one of a few kids in the cast who can tap dance, so for that one number she has to become a chimney sweep. They were trying to think of a way to hide her hair and keep people from wondering why Mrs. Banks is also a chimney sweep, and I may have a solution, as an expert in long, curly hair. It depends on how she's going to wear her hair as Mrs. Banks. But I can help them with that, too, since I have a lot of ways of putting up long, curly hair.

Meanwhile, I seem to have had my first house-hunting anxiety dream. It actually wasn't that bad a dream, just a weird one. I'd had to resort to buying the one house available that's kind of close to what I want, but not exactly. It's been on the market since December, which is odd in this market where things are selling the day they go on sale, and now the listing is specifying that it needs a new roof and a new air conditioner, which explains it. In the dream, I'd already moved in, but then I kept finding these rooms I didn't know were there. It was like what you see in a really old house that's been added on to over the years, where a porch gets glassed in to become a sun room, and the garage gets finished out to be a room, with a new garage added on, etc. I discovered this whole network of rooms I hadn't known about, and they were still furnished. I learned that the house had been foreclosed and the family had to leave quickly, so they'd had to leave a lot of their stuff behind. Then they showed up and asked if they could take a few mementos, as some scrapbooks and photos had been in the stuff they had to leave. I was encouraging the kids to take their books and feeling really bad for them, but was hoping they didn't want to take the Celtic harps I'd discovered they had in one of those rooms. I'm really not sure what all this indicates about my mindset. This particular house is in my target neighborhood, but I don't like its location, and I really don't want to deal with stuff like needing a new roof. It's way overpriced if that kind of thing needs to be done to it. And I do kind of want a harp. I liked the sun room that I was planning to use as an office.

In short, buy my new book and tell people about it. This house hunting thing is going to be an adventure.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Really Crazy Week

A truly crazy week has begun for me, but at least I started it with a yoga class and then going out for tea with the yoga class, so maybe I'll have some balance. It's the big rehearsal week for Mary Poppins, when I have to actually attend rehearsals Monday, Tuesday and Thursday nights. Meanwhile, it's my final week to wrap up home preparations. I'm down to mostly just cleaning, other than getting a plumber in. I have my usual Wednesday night stuff, though there is sleet in the forecast, so we'll see if that gets cancelled. But next week will be light, as it's spring break, so I won't have yoga, ballet, children's choir or musical rehearsals. I might have regular choir, but I haven't heard about that yet. And my house should be already clean.

I got my office mostly clean over the weekend. I still need to tidy around my desk, but the rest of the office has open floor space instead of boxes of stuff (mostly books). It was so exciting to find the floor.

Meanwhile, I finally watched The Grand Budapest Hotel on HBO. It wasn't quite what I was expecting it to be, as most of it doesn't actually involve the hotel, but still it was a fun and quirky film. For some reason, it reminded me a lot of Raising Arizona -- probably something to do with the tone and the quirkiness. It also gave me a real nostalgia jolt in an odd way. The parts set in the late 60s, when Jude Law's character is visiting the hotel and hearing the story about the events in the 30s, reminded me so much of some vacations we took when I was a kid and we were living in Germany. In the movie, it's an opulent old hotel whose glory days ended in the 30s, and in the "present" it still has some of those bones, but has fallen on harder times and is now a little shabby. It's furnished with utilitarian mid-century furniture, and the signage is those felt boards with the little plastic letters. That reminded me so much of the hotels at the US military recreation areas in Germany. They were these old, pre-war buildings that looked like they had once been very luxurious, but the furnishings were pretty much 1960s general issue office style, almost institutional, and the signage was those felt boards with push-on plastic letters. The dining rooms always looked like a base cafeteria (and I think were run by the same organization), even if they were these grand old hotel restaurants. I remember always being a bit jolted by the disconnect between the buildings and the furnishings, and I'd try to image what these places had been like in their glory years.

At the first shot of the hotel during that era in the movie, I had this burst of familiarity, and it took me a moment or two to place it. I think they were trying to depict the hotel during the communist era, but it was just like the way the military ran hotels.

Now to get on with tackling the crazy week.