Thursday, July 28, 2016

Writing Fast

I have about an hour's worth of work to go on this draft, and that means I'll have finished a full-length draft of an approximately 90,000 word novel in about a month. And I didn't even work every day. I had a few slack-off days in the middle. Because I love analysis, I figure it's worth thinking about what worked so I can replicate it. If I can do this kind of production, I can keep up a good, steady publication schedule. So, what did I do differently this time?

Oddly, I didn't outline. I had a few high points planned and I'd done research relating to some topics I used, but otherwise, this was pure pantsing like I've never really done before, making it up as I went and sometimes being surprised by where my imagination took me. It helps there that I'm working with very familiar characters in a world I've already developed, and I'm picking up bits and pieces of things I've already set up. I don't think I could do this sort of thing with a new series. But it's been a lot of fun just seeing where the story took me. I'll probably have to do a lot of revision to go back and set up the things that occurred to me later in the story, but I end up having to do a lot of revision no matter how much I outline, so I'm not sure that the obsessive plotting is a big timesaver for me.

Another odd thing was that I did this while having wi-fi at home. I resisted for years because I was afraid it would kill my productivity, and apparently it hasn't. I think in a sense it's helped because I can multitask my goofing off. If I can play around online while watching TV, then that's more time I have during working hours, and I'm less tempted then.

But I think another related thing that helped was that I've been forcing myself to be aware of my own bad habits. I have a tendency to put off starting to write or going back to writing when I've taken a break by doing what I think of as "doom looping." That's when I get caught in a cycle of checking e-mail, checking social media, then going back around to the things I just checked to see if there's anything new. But since there isn't much new in the two minutes since I last checked, I'm more inclined to read things I otherwise wouldn't and get lost in rabbit trails. The first time through, I skim through things friends have posted and only follow links that are business-related or of extremely high interest. The second time through, I'll read things that might be of interest but that aren't urgent, like "23 ways to organize your house." By the third or fourth loop, I'm so desperate for new content that I'll click on "You won't believe what happens when this baby sees this puppy." So, the moment I'm about to click on something that's not highly relevant to my work or major interests, I tell myself that I'm doom looping and get to work.

Something that's helped with that is starting my work session for the day with a sprint. I generally do my marketing and business stuff in the morning and write in the afternoon and evening, but my start time in the afternoon often gets delayed because I go online to check my e-mail, start doom looping, and then an hour or so later I still haven't done anything. So I've started setting a firm start time right after lunch, with no checking anything (unless maybe there's something I've been expecting and will need to deal with), and then working for about an hour/writing ten pages without a break. That means I get about half my daily minimum done (I aim for at least 20 pages a day) before I usually would have started work, and then I have some momentum going for getting the rest done. After that, I tend to work in half-hour bursts with breaks to get up and move in between. As a result, I've surpassed my usual daily minimums without feeling like I'm spending that much more actual time working. I am putting in more time writing, but it's in the same amount of time "in the office," so to speak.

Something that may or may not play a role in all this is that I've been watching what I eat during this time, mostly because there were summer clothes I got out this year that didn't quite fit right. So this summer I've been trying to avoid sweets and snacks and eating a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables and drinking a lot of water. I have a lot more energy and haven't needed a lot of caffeine, and that seems to have translated into me getting more done in the afternoon without the usual midday slump.

Now we'll see how revisions go, but I'd like to try this again and boost my output. More books published more frequently means not only more stuff available to sell, but more sustained visibility, and since I'm publishing most of this stuff myself, I can put out as many books a year as I can write.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Making Antagonists Interesting

I'm continuing the discussion on how to write interesting antagonists. In the previous post on this topic, I griped about the tendency to "woobify" villains -- giving them a sad backstory that excuses their villainy. But if you're not going fall into that trope, how do you make villains and antagonists interesting? Here are some things to try:

1) Do some research
Whether you're writing an antagonist who's an annoying co-worker or a supervillain who wants to take over the world, you can find relevant references that will help you depict this character in a three-dimensional, realistic way. The self-help, family relationships, and business sections of libraries and bookstores are full of books on dealing with difficult people. These books give examples of difficult behaviors and their impact on others, get into how and why these people behave that way, and give tips for how to deal with them. You can get a lot of great material on dealing with annoying family members, backstabbing co-workers, and manipulative frenemies. In the psychology section, you'll find books on more serious personality disorders that can manifest in evil ways. Can you think of a figure from history or current events who has a parallel to the character you're writing? Read a biography, autobiography, or memoir of that person. The parallel doesn't have to be an antagonist type. Even a person who has had a positive impact on the world can have personality aspects that could have turned things in a darker direction if the person had made different choices or had lived in different circumstances, or if you're looking at the situation from the perspective of this person's opponent. Doing this kind of research reading is a good way to break away from the more typical "villain" tropes, and getting close to real life, especially with more ordinary antagonists, makes readers more likely to identify with the protagonists' struggles with these people.

2) Create a more detailed backstory
You can think of past events in your antagonist's life without falling into the "woobie" villain trope. Don't hinge the character's evil on one pivotal event. There's usually a continuum of events that led this person down the path to where she is when your story starts. This is where your research might pay off, if in studying real people you've learned some of the things that might create a villain. You don't have to put all (or even any) of this into the book itself, but knowing this information will affect how you see and write the character. Also remember that it's not the events themselves that turn people down the wrong path. What's most important is the way the person responds to those events, the choices she makes when faced with traumas or obstacles. Another person faced with those same life events might make different choices and go in a different direction. And that brings me to …

3) Find a connection or parallel to your protagonist
This doesn't mean that every antagonist has to turn out to secretly be the hero's father, long-list sister, or former mentor. Sometimes that close connection can raise emotional stakes, but it's not a requirement and has become something of a cliche. But you can show how different choices can lead in different directions by giving your hero and villain a similar background with very different outcomes. The Harry Potter series did a good job of that by showing that Tom Riddle/Voldemort and Harry had very similar backgrounds as unloved and abused orphans who didn't discover that they were magical until they were invited to Hogwarts. But the way they responded to these events was very different. Voldemort craved power over others as a way of compensating for his powerless childhood, while Harry craved love and family and found that in Hogwarts. That gave them an interesting dynamic, as each had an opponent who probably understood him better than anyone else. Voldemort could manipulate Harry because he understood him on a certain level, but at the same time, there was a lot about Harry that he didn't understand at all because Harry had made such very different choices along the way.

4) Think of your antagonist as a character, not just as "the bad guy"
When you're researching your antagonist and coming up with that detailed backstory, don't just think about the "villain" aspects of the character. What else is going on in this person's life? Do the kind of character development you might for any other character. What kind of clothes does he wear? Does he have any traits or mannerisms? What kind of food does she like? What does she love? What kind of home does he live in? What does she do for fun when she's not villaining? Does she have friends? What do they think about her? What about pets? What does he do after a long day of villaining? Throw in one or two unexpected things that don't come from the usual list of villain tropes to keep things interesting. You don't necessarily have to show the villain coming home, changing into sweats, and curling up on the sofa to watch the Hallmark channel with a cup of cocoa (I'm totally going to have to write that), but the more vivid a picture you have of this character, the more vivid your writing of this person will be.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Procrastination Escapes

I got a good start on the week yesterday, getting in not only the pages I needed to stay on schedule, but also a few more, so I can do less on Thursday. Right now, I'm down to doing my normal quota on Thursday instead of a little extra, and I hope to go over a bit today so that Thursday I can do even less. Today I took care of most of my pre-trip errands, but I'll need time Thursday for last-minute errands, packing, and getting the house clean enough that I won't recoil in horror when I return home.

And I guess I need to find something to read at the con, and put together some promo stuff, and think my way through the panels I'm moderating.

But I will prevail! I'm at the fun part of the book, so it should go quickly from here on out. I already know I'm going to need to add more funny stuff in the next draft. That's one of the harder parts of this particular series. There's humor in everything I write because I can't help myself, but so far none of it but the Enchanted, Inc. series has been specifically labeled "humor" or "comedy." So if there's a funny line or two, then great, but I don't feel required to plan to include any comic set pieces or humorous riffs. In this series, though, it's kind of a requirement. Something laugh-out-loud funny needs to happen because that's one reason people read these books. That does usually come in a later draft when I can look at the scenes and see what I can do with them, so it's not time to panic yet.

I'll panic after I finish the first draft.

The latest procrastination method has been researching a hypothetical vacation. The other night, I was watching something on TV in which the characters were sitting on the outside deck of a restaurant, overlooking a river, having drinks. Suddenly that looked exactly like something I wanted to do. I got sidetracked looking up places I could go, checking airfares and hotel possibilities, etc. It would have to be a quick getaway, either Labor Day weekend or the weekend after, and since I could only do a couple of days, it wouldn't make sense to go very far away. I had it narrowed down between San Antonio and Chicago, and then I figured it might be wise to wait until after WorldCon because I might not want to travel again at that point. I could get some of that effect sipping tea on the patio outside the coffee shop adjacent to the library or there's a spot nearby in my city that I think has a waterside bar or two. Or I guess I could take a glass of wine to the end of my block and sit by the canal. Later in the year, when I wouldn't burst into flames upon stepping outside (I endure summer).

Monday, July 25, 2016

In the Home Stretch

I've reached the 3/4 mark of this book, with about 100 pages to go (if the plot cooperates). That means that if I write 25 pages a day this week, I can finish this draft before ArmadilloCon. Then the con weekend can be my between-drafts palate-cleansing break, and then when I get back I can dive into the major surgery revisions. I'd like to finish those in the two weeks before WorldCon, which can be my break before I do editing/polishing and proofreading. This may be the fastest first draft I've ever done for a book this length. I may have writtenone of my category romances in about that time, but it was only 50,000 words. Otherwise, I believe Once Upon Stilettos was done in something like 5-6 weeks. And then it took me months to revise. I haven't re-read what I've written, so I don't know how heavy the revisions on this one will be. I know of some tweaking I want to do, and there's a character who'll need to be better established to set up something I want to do with her. There are also some scenes I'll need to amp up or flesh out, and probably some scenes that need to be trimmed or cut entirely (I suspect I've got a lot of Plotting on Paper in this book, where the characters discuss possible things they could do so that I can figure out what they will do).

Then I'll spend September playing with a new idea to see if it's viable. In October, I'm hoping to dive into the next Rebel Mechanics book.

Speaking of which … the hardcover edition of Rebel Magisters is now available at both Amazon and Barnes & Noble (and through other places, like the Ingram catalog, for library purchases). It's part of the overall book listing, so if you click on the book, it will show the formats that are available. I'm hoping to have news of audio soon.

In other news … I saw the new Star Trek movie this weekend, and I think I liked it better than the other ones in the reboot series. I'm still iffy on the concept of the reboot, and there were a few lines and scenes that were on a fine line between "homage" and "parody," with a set of scenes that were straight out of fanfic. But in general, it felt a lot more like classic Star Trek than the previous two films did.

Though, to be honest, I was far more excited by the new trailer for Rogue One, the new Star Wars movie. That looks like it's going to be so much fun.

And now off to get my 25 pages written. I'm going to try to get more than that to lighten my load for Thursday so I can deal with packing and preparation and get to bed early.

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Geek Double Standard

I spent the morning buying new glasses. I've had more or less the same prescription -- not changing enough to make enough difference to bother with new glasses -- for about fifteen years, and have had the current glasses for almost 11 years. At my eye exam yesterday, my prescription changed the tiniest amount that it could change, and I figured that was a good excuse to update my glasses. That also gives me the chance to get bifocals, but with the reading part blank. I only wear glasses to drive or watch TV, or when I'm out of the house. I don't need them for anything else, but I've reached a point where I can't wear them to read. I've been taking them off to read, or else I've been looking under them, but that's kind of a pain, and my doctor suggested the bifocals as a way to get a similar benefit without having to take the glasses off (that's what she has). Now I have to wait about 10 days for them to come in.

But shopping for glasses, and realizing that the geek chic frames don't work on my face, made me think of another movie/TV trope involving women, in light of my earlier discussion about the creepy behavior. It's what I call the Geek Double Standard.

In movies/TV shows with a geeky male hero or major character, he's probably fallen madly in love with some beautiful supermodel type woman, often without her having anything in common with him, or with him not even knowing enough about her to know whether she has anything in common with him. This is portrayed as romantic, and we're supposed to cheer for him, even when he engages in creepy behavior in pursuit of her -- sabotaging or interrupting her dates with other men, stalking her, hacking into her online accounts to learn more about her, spying on her, etc. Often, she ends up finding this charming and falls in love with him. If she doesn't, she's portrayed as shallow and bitchy for rejecting him. The only reason given why she might possibly be rejecting him is his geeky appearance. Apparently, not being into stalkers or wanting a man to have something in common with her aren't even considered as possibilities. Even if she is rejecting him because of his geeky appearance, it's okay for him to be into her because she's beautiful, but it's terrible and shallow of her to not be into him because he's not conventionally attractive.

On the other hand, if a geeky female has any romantic interest in any man, it's played for laughs. She's depicted as a pathetic loser. It's especially bad if her interest is in an attractive, heroic type, but even if she's after a fellow geek who has a lot of things in common with her, she's shown to be an annoyance to him. She might get in the way of his pursuit of the supermodel, I guess. He's not depicted as being shallow for not being receptive to her advances because of her appearance. The only way she can get any man is to take off her glasses, let her hair down, wear makeup, and dress up in sexy clothes.

I will give the original Ghostbusters some credit in not falling into this trap. Sigourney Weaver's character was never portrayed as being an awful person for not being into her geeky neighbor or for initially resisting Bill Murray (they just forgot to show the transition between her not being impressed with him and her falling in love with him). Though they did sort of portray Janine's interest in Egon as pathetic, even though he was nerdier than she was.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Rereading Damsel Under Stress: Chapters 11-13

I suspect that doing the re-read and commentary of the earlier books in the Enchanted, Inc. series had something to do with sparking an idea for a new book, or else it just reminded me of how much fun these are to write. Working on it is almost like taking a vacation from my other writing.

So, we're at chapters 11-13 of Damsel Under Stress, where the Spellworks ad campaign is in full force, and they've realized that they've even opened a store. Yes, this is all a deliberate riff on Apple, but I should say that I'm a rather loyal Mac user. I have a MacPlus from 1990 in my closet (thinking of turning it either into a terrarium or a fish bowl), and I'm on my sixth Mac (probably soon to be a seventh, as the current MacBook is more than five years old, and that's getting into the danger zone). Mostly, all this came from the idea that the magic industry was like the computer industry, with spells being the software. At the time I came up with the idea for the series, I was working in high-tech public relations, so I'd dealt with software companies. These were the people I knew and the part of the business world I was most familiar with. When I was researching the first book, I read a few books about Silicon Valley and life inside Apple, the battle against IBM and Microsoft, etc. Since my "hero" company was the establishment, that meant the villain had to be "Apple." Plus, Phelan Idris isn't particularly imaginative, and he was deliberately and blatantly ripping off Apple because that's how he saw himself. I don't know if the "I'm a Mac, and I'm a PC" ads were yet running at the time I wrote this book, but that was the basic attitude behind the way Spellworks was set up.

In the planning for what to do about all this, I set up a couple of things. One was Katie volunteering to lose her immunity so they could have a "normal" person who was in on the secret. That's a progression of her character, after she spent much of the last book trying to get her immunity back. Now she's being pretty brave in offering to do it (and that sets up something that happens later). We also start getting the sense that Owen is letting his personal feelings get in the way. We've seen that he has the potential to be dangerous, and does it make him even more dangerous when he's more worried about someone he cares for than he is about the greater good?

Then we get to the dragons. This whole bit was inspired by the chapter header art from the first book, which showed a dragon twined around the chapter number. When I saw that, my first thought was, "You know all those urban legends about alligators in the New York sewer system? They're not alligators." I'd already written the second book before I saw the interior of the first book, so this book was my first chance to play with that. It was a nice fit for the incompetent and out-of-date fairy godmother subplot, since there are all those stories in which rescuing a maiden from a dragon was a surefire path to romance. Of course Ethelinda would set up something like that in her matchmaking efforts. Only, as Katie told her, dragons really aren't that romantic. Then again, it did lead to a cozy evening in at Owen's place, so maybe she was on to something …

And then Ethelinda intervenes yet again in a way that could be disastrous, or it might actually be helpful, when Katie and Owen end up getting their dinner plans hijacked so that they're sent off to a fancy restaurant -- where they just happen to see a celebration dinner between their enemies. I think this scene was largely inspired by reading restaurant reviews in the local newspaper. I'm not a super picky eater, but I'm also not a big gourmet foodie. I tend to read restaurant reviews with a sense of morbid fascination because most of the dishes they describe sound rather revolting and really just an excuse to throw together things that should never go together in the name of "innovation." In this scene, I created a restaurant that sounds like the kind of place you'd read about in a restaurant review. And then, because Idris is there, chaos ensues ...

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Creepy Behavior

Every so often, I seem to hit a kind of perfect storm of things coming at me from a variety of angles that makes me realize something. Lately, oddly enough, it's been the way that really creepy behavior is so often portrayed as romantic.

I guess part of what started me down this train of thought was a picture I saw on Facebook of the Phantom, from Phantom of the Opera, sitting on his throne, and with a caption saying something about how he now realized that the way he'd pursued Christine might have come across as rather creepy and unsettling. That made me laugh because that's always been my view of the story. I've never been able to see that relationship as romantic, never saw it as a beauty-and-the-beast tale. I was Team Raoul all the way (plus, in the musical, the original Raoul was a fellow Longhorn). Then I watched the original Ghostbusters over the weekend, and I found the way Sigourney Weaver's character was treated to be very unsettling. That was a big case of having had way too many experiences that were way too similar. The way the Rick Moranis character acted toward her is a lot like the way I sometimes experience science fiction conventions, where people mean well and aren't really doing anything mean, but they can sometimes be a little over the top while not picking up on clues that their interest isn't reciprocated in that way. I haven't had anything quite that bad happen, but I have had a lot of experience with people who misinterpret generic author-mode friendliness. The way Bill Murray's character acted was the other end of the spectrum, where he was being creepily present and intrusive, but with the air that the relationship was already a done deal and the implication that he knew she was interested, regardless of what she said, and acting like she was the one more interested than he was, even though he was the one practically stalking her.

Then, to cap off the train of thought, I left iTunes playing while I was cooking dinner last night, and there was enough noise from the kitchen that I couldn't quite hear the music, until there was a bloodcurdling scream from the living room. I realized it was part of the Phantom of the Opera soundtrack, leading to the ending where Christine has to tell the Phantom that she's not into him that way (though she still has to kiss him).

I find all that behavior horrifying and rather scary. There have been way too many cases in real life of women and girls being hurt or killed because they didn't return a man's affections or because they dared to break up with a man who claimed to love them. And yet, fiction is full of men engaging in creepy, stalker-like behavior that's portrayed as romantic. There was the Twilight series and 50 Shades of Grey, but it's also all over romance novels and movies. In Ghostbusters, it was played for laughs, and the behavior worked for Bill Murray's character even if it didn't work for the dweeb, which sends the message that it's only creepy if the woman isn't interested, but it's cool if the woman is. And that just makes things even more confusing.

It's something I try to be conscious of as a writer, especially now that I'm overtly writing for teens (though I've always had a big teen readership). I may not get the obsessive fandom that the creepy stuff seems to attract, but I hope to portray more positive relationship models, and I like to show healthy relationships as romantic. I just don't get the idea that the more "wrong" a relationship is, the more sexy and exciting it is.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Madness and Movies

Yesterday was the day of getting my to-do list dealt with -- ordering promo material, paying bills, making appointments. I don't know why all that is so draining, but it is. And that means today is a day for writing. I was so tired last night that I went to bed super early, which meant I was up early today and got my errands taken care of. So I can spend the rest of the day hiding in my air conditioned cave, sitting under the ceiling fan, drinking cool beverages, and writing like a madwoman.

I mean in quantity, not in quality. Then again …

In other topics of interest …

I have not seen the new Ghostbusters, mostly because that would involve leaving the house, and see above about writing. However, I did watch the original two on cable over the weekend, and you know, that first one is really not a good movie. The premise is fun and the cast is great, but the script is awful. I like the first half, when they're actually, you know, ghost busting, but then it jumps the rails entirely when it goes off on the tangent of Sumerian deities. There's no real worldbuilding, no character development, and yet there's potential there. The treatment of women is pretty awful. The stuff around Sigourney Weaver's character was really uncomfortable, both with the creeper neighbor and the way Bill Murray's character treated her. I don't think I'd seen the second one since I saw it at the theater, but I was surprised that I mostly liked it better. That may have been because it was relatively fresh and I didn't remember any of it, but I liked the plot better. There weren't as many funny lines or comic set pieces, but the story was more coherent. Really, though, the entire thing in both movies was the charm of the cast and the novelty of it. There's a lot of room for improvement in those films.

And then there's this news: The Jim Henson Company is developing a movie of Terry Pratchett's Wee Free Men, with script by Pratchett's daughter (who is actually a professional screenwriter, so it's not just a nepotism thing). Her involvement suggests that they won't screw up the spirit of it, and the Henson people do good stuff. It seems like they would "get" it. The project is "in development," so there's no guarantee it will actually make it to the screen, but Brian Henson himself is involved, which probably helps.

I'm going to have to see the new Star Trek movie this weekend (my friends are going) because I'm on the Star Trek panel at WorldCon, with people who've actually written for the series, including David Gerrold. I haven't been keen on the reboot movies and might have skipped it otherwise, but now it counts as work.

Speaking of work ...

Monday, July 18, 2016

New and Upcoming Stuff

In case you missed the big news on Friday, the book I've been talking about working on is a new Enchanted, Inc. book. I've been saying all along that although I was satisfied with the ending of book 7 as an ending to the series, I wasn't closing the door on it. If I got an idea, I'd write it. And then I got an idea. Since I'm halfway through with it, I'm pretty sure it's viable and will turn into a book. There's some stuff to work out before I can settle on a release date -- like getting booked with the copyeditor, seeing about audio and coordinating that production, etc.  Oh, and finishing writing it -- but I would guess that it will be out by the end of the year.

I did a bit of a social media experiment to see how the news propagated and where it got the most reaction, and it seems like Facebook is where I get the most response and readership. My Twitter followers seem to be more in the Rebel Mechanics camp and/or don't follow links to my blog. I'll have to do more thinking about strategy in social media and stuff like that, but probably after I finish this book and get convention season out of the way.

Here's a general list of what projects I have planned for the near future (and this list is subject to change based on lots of variables):
Right now -- Enchanted, Inc. book 8 (still no title, that usually comes later)
Next -- a totally new YA project that I just want to play with for a while and see if it's viable. It's burning a hole in my brain, so I need to do something with it, enough to see if it either forms into a book or if it needs more development
Then -- Rebel Mechanics book 3
Then -- I'm not sure. I'm planning a fourth Fairy Tale book, and I even have some brainstorming done on it. But that series is weirdly hard to write for me, very nebulous, so it may need more brewing time. I have an idea for a main plot and a few scenes have popped into my head, but the scenes and plot haven't yet clicked. Otherwise, I have this idea for a big romantic fantasy that's starting to demand attention and development. It's very different in structure than anything I've done before, and that means I can't quite tell if it's going to be a standalone or a series. I'd like to spend some time playing with it so I can see how it will shape up and if it needs more development or if it's ready to go.

And there's that TV Christmas movie script I wrote a few years ago -- I'm not sure how likely it is that I'd be able to sell it as a script. I wrote it more with Lifetime or ABC Family in mind, since they did a lot more fantasy/paranormal stories, but now most of the movies are on Hallmark, and I don't recall seeing anything with magical elements there in ages. I've thought of writing it out as a novella and getting it out as a seasonal thing, but I guess I'd need to do that quickly if I'm going to do it for this year. In my head, it would be quick and easy since it's already plotted and with the dialogue written, but reality might be different.

And yeah, this is all stuff I'd like to do this year. Which means I need to spend more time writing.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Halfway There!

I have reached the halfway point of the current book, but now I think I need to take some brainstorming time. I had a very vague outline starting out, but I've mostly been pantsing this book (writing by the seat of the pants rather than with a plan). Most of what's happened has been whatever struck me at the spur of the moment. I haven't planned the new characters who've popped up. I've just been going with it as it comes to me. But now I think I need to take some time to figure out exactly who these people are and what they want, and I need to look at what they're doing to get it.
When I'm on a roll with the writing, sometimes I resist stopping to think because that doesn't look like forward progress, and I've been so very excited about all the progress I've made. I have to remind myself that a day of thinking will lead to faster progress in the future rather than several days of frustration, staring at the screen, and then more extensive rewrites later. In this case, I think I have a character who's potentially fascinating because he doesn't fit expectations at all, but I need to dig a little deeper into him and how he works (he's a very nice villain -- good to the people around him, probably helps little old ladies across the street, but utterly ruthless when it comes to achieving his goals).

But since I am at the halfway point and it seems like the book is viable, I now feel safe in announcing what I'm working on:

It's a new Enchanted, Inc. book!

I've been saying all along that I was open to writing one if I got an idea, and then a couple of months ago I got an idea. It was easier than I expected to fall back into that voice and into Katie's world, and I'm having a lot of fun with it. No firm release date yet, since I'm not done with it and there are things to work out (like whether Audible wants it and we have to sync release date with them). I haven't even talked to my agent about it other than to tell her I was planning to do it when I got the idea. I would think that unless something horrible bogs down the process, it will be out by the end of the year.

And, yes, I know I buried the lead in not making this announcement the headline, but as I evaluate what to do with my blog, I thought this might be a fun test of how many people read it and how much they read it.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Rereading Damsel Under Stress: Chapters 8-10

It's Book Day Plus 2, and the new book seems to be pretty well-received. Whew! I'm always nervous about that. I work in a fairly isolated bubble, and then suddenly hundreds of people are reading something that was pretty personal to me up to that point.

But enough of the new book. Now, back to an old one, with chapters 8-10 of Damsel Under Stress.

We start with Katie and Owen arriving at his foster parents' house in his hometown. Before I wrote this book, I had a very particular image in mind of the kind of town I thought he was from, which was possibly informed by some small Connecticut towns I'd seen when I was on a business trip visiting a client, and the co-worker I was traveling with and I did a bit of sightseeing after the meetings ended (one of those occasions when we were assumed to be on a date when we went to dinner). When I visited New York to do my location research, I decided I needed to get out of the city and visit one of these towns. I got a map and the railway schedule and ended up picking a town called Irvington to visit, mostly because it looked small enough to fit what I had in mind, had a train station, and wouldn't be too long a train trip. Also, I live in Irving, Texas, so I felt like it was kind of a sister city (there's some debate as to whether Irving really is named after Washington Irving, but the Irving library has decided that it was and has run with it. Irvington is definitely named after him, as that's where his house is). For even more of an Irving connection, my mental location for Owen's house is near Irving Place in New York. So there's a definite Irving thing going on with a tribute to my hometown (I didn't grow up here, but I've lived here my entire adult life, which should count for something).

And boy, was I glad I made the site visit because it was nothing like what I imagined. It was possibly better for my story than what I had in mind, but my mental image was all wrong and needed to be corrected. I didn't describe too much, but I need to see what I'm writing about clearly. I'd pictured something more Colonial, but this town was very Victorian, kind of Dickensian. It was December, so they had the Christmas decorations out, and it had snowed the night before, so it was just perfect.

I struggled with how to write Owen's foster parents. That part of his backstory was some of the explanation for his shyness. For reasons that become apparent later in the series, they were worried about his power, so they were concerned with keeping him from getting too full of himself, and they may have overcorrected. The way Owen has talked about them, they sound very cold and intimidating, but once Katie seems them for herself, I wanted to show that there was a lot of love and concern underlying it all, that these were people given a very difficult task in very difficult circumstances and were doing the best they knew how to do. They may not have been totally right, and there may have been some pain caused, but he did turn out okay, so maybe they were right, in the long run.

For the melee at the post-church fellowship, I had some fun with taking a real situation and amping it up to about 13 on a scale of 1-10 by using magic. In just about any small town, if a local boy made good comes home and is still technically single (a new girlfriend doesn't count), the mothers of daughters will get really competitive to try to reel him in. It's just usually more polite than an all-out brawl, though what I've depicted is probably what's happening in people's minds. These things can also get pretty competitive in who baked what and whose is best (speaking as the reigning champion baker at my church, with the blue ribbon to prove it).

I will admit that the brownie cleaning the house at night is a bit of wishful thinking from folklore. I'd dearly love to wake up in the morning with a clean house.

When I was trying to figure out how Owen and Katie were going to get back to the city in an emergency, I used the technique of making a list of at least 20 things, and I tried all kinds of ideas. I thought borrowing the parents' car was probably the least interesting. I'd already used flying carpets. I considered making a pumpkin coach. I ended up coming back around to a car, but with crazy gargoyle drivers. I'm still not sure where that came from, though I guess the tag-team driving method is the ultimate backseat driver. Rocky and Rollo sprang fully formed into my brain, complete with names and their boastful chant. Their voices were utterly vivid to me.  I had so much fun writing their scenes.

Then we get to see why, exactly, people were a little nervous about Owen when we see him able to momentarily freeze time in Times Square. It's a show of raw power, and we get the idea that if this guy had gone bad, everyone would have been in a lot of trouble.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Writing the Antagonist

After the excitement of Double Release Day, it's time to get back to routine with a Writing Wednesday post, this time with an excellent question posed by a reader about writing antagonists.

This is something I hadn't put a lot of thought into because I tend to be very protagonist-focused, so it forced me to think about it. Here are some initial ideas I came up with.

First, you probably should care as much about creating your antagonist as you do your protagonist. I've heard writers say that the difference between protagonist and antagonist is perspective, that the protagonist is the one whose viewpoint you're in. I don't entirely agree because it depends on the story. There are cases where the roles could easily be switched, where no one is doing anything actually villainous, and the "good guy" is only the good guy because that's the one we're being led to cheer for. But there are also deeds that are objectively villainous, regardless of perspective. If a protagonist did those things, we'd call him an antihero.

However, if you're looking at it from the antagonist's perspective, then the antagonist is the hero of his or her own story and will find justification for even those villainous deeds. You don't have to write the story from that perspective, but it's a perspective you need to be able to consider in order to figure out what the villain will be doing.

Treating the antagonist like the hero of his own story means that, like the protagonist, he needs to have a goal -- something specific and concrete that he wants to accomplish. It needs to be specific and concrete enough that you can picture a scene of him achieving it (even if he's not going to because the protagonist will foil him). So, not just "world power," but standing on a stage, addressing the entire world via satellite, with his armed minions positioned to shut down any opposition.

Because this is an antagonist, this goal needs to be something that will have negative consequences for the protagonist or for something the protagonist cares about. In that picture of the antagonist achieving his goal, things have to look very bad for the protagonist. These potential negative consequences have to be enough to force the protagonist to take action, so the antagonist's goal needs to be in proportion to the situation and to the protagonist. If the antagonist's goal is to take over a small town's garden club, that's not going to work if your protagonist is the police chief (unless, I suppose, the chief is an avid gardener) or superhero because why would they care? It might work if your story is a cozy mystery (and the antagonist is knocking off rivals), a small-town romance, or possibly literary or women's fiction about the relationships among women in the town and your protagonist is desperately clinging to the one bit of status she has left. She'll be left a nobody and outsider if she's no longer garden club president, so she's going to fight to stop the antagonist.

The antagonist also needs a motivation, a reason for the goal. That doesn't mean it has to be a sob story, though that's become something of a trope. Someone can want to take over the world or rob a bank or take over the garden club without having had a sad childhood. Money and power are perfectly good motivations on their own. Look at the real world and the people involved in insider trading and corporate raiding. Most of them come from a background of wealth. They're motivated by greed and entitlement. I might have a minority opinion on this, though, since I see a lot of readers swooning over poor, sad villains. I just tend to roll my eyes at villains who justify all their evil actions on this one slight they suffered as kids. My response is to want to tell them to grow up, or else I hear a Dr. Doofenshmirtz monologue from Phineas & Ferb in my head (a cartoon villain who tied each of his evil schemes to some incident from his childhood, like being forced by his parents to serve as a garden gnome). You'll need to figure out for yourself what effect you want to achieve -- do you want readers feeling sorry for your antagonist, or do you want them hating her? Are you planning to redeem her or vanquish her? That will determine how sympathetic you make the villain's motivation. Mostly, the motivation needs to be strong enough to explain why the antagonist is bothering with everything it takes to achieve the goal. The protagonist is generally motivated by the potential negative consequences of the antagonist winning, but that means the antagonist has to have a good reason to kick things off in the first place.

A specific, concrete goal that has negative consequences for the protagonist that's driven by a strong motivation is the basic building block of an antagonist. From there, you can do other things to make the antagonist and his relationship to the protagonist more interesting, and that's a subject for the next post.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Double Release Day!

It's double release day for me! Rebel Mechanics in paperback and Rebel Magisters released into the world. Fly, fly my pretties! And yes, I know, the Kindle version of Rebel Mechanics is now more expensive than the paperback, but I don't get to set those prices.

To address a frequently asked question:
Yes, there will be more books in that series. I originally plotted a trilogy, but the second book veered from my original outline, which may have a major ripple effect on the next book, so I don't know if the next book will end the series or if it will take more books after that. There are a couple of other things I need to work on first while this one brews in the back of my head, and then there will be some research required. I hope to get to work on the next book this fall.

In fact, that was a big distraction for me yesterday, when I was supposed to be writing. I found myself fantasizing about a writing retreat -- going away somewhere without a lot of distractions and just writing for a few days. I had this idea in my head of a cabin on a lake in the woods, then I got really sidetracked searching for such a thing. I kept finding places that were near lakes, but not on lakes. A lot of the state parks in Oklahoma have cabins, but very few on lakes.

Then I found one that's not too long a drive away (near the Texas border) that has lakeside cabins they call "primitive." They're not too terribly primitive, as they have electricity, AC/heat, and a bathroom. They just don't have TVs, WiFi, or kitchens. But they are right on the lake, with a screened in back porch overlooking the lake. I figure there's a lot I could do with an electric teakettle and my mini crock pot for food without needing to haul around perishables, and think of what I could get done with nothing to do other than read or write, with no Internet or TV. I could spend most of the day sitting on that porch and writing. When I hit a rough patch or get stuck, I could take a walk along the lake or in the woods. You have to supply your own bedding, but that just means I can haul up my featherbed and make myself a comfy nest. So, that's my incentive -- when I finish the project I'm working on and one other thing, I'll go to Book Camp and get a solid start on the next Rebel Mechanics book.

But in the meantime, here's a little something I put together last night, using vintage film footage from around the turn of the century. It's not actually taken from an airship, but rather a pan around from the top of a tall building, but it feels like you're flying, which reminded me of the airship scene in Rebel Mechanics.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Coming Tomorrow!

In case you haven't heard, tomorrow is going to be a big day for me. The paperback edition of Rebel Mechanics will be available, with the e-book going to "paperback" pricing. And Rebel Magisters will be officially released. I have heard reports of people already having the paperback. To make the paperback available on the release date, we have to make it go "on sale" a few days earlier, and you never know when they're going to actually make it live and how long it will take to fulfill orders. We're working on making the necessary tweaks to turn the cover into a dust jacket for the hardcover edition, so that should be available soon, and talks are under way to get an audio version, but that will take longer.

I may have to slow down my new writing this week to do some kind of promo. I don't know how much sales of Rebel Mechanics will really benefit me, unless they're big enough to go beyond my advance, since the publisher and I have already parted ways, but I would rather enjoy getting in a nice point-and-laugh moment if it takes off and they have to kick themselves (not that they would, because the publishing world is amazingly short on self awareness). Still, it's fun to imagine the meeting in which some executive mentions really good sales on this one paperback and asks if any sequels are in the pipeline, and someone has to shift uncomfortably and admit that they rejected the sequel. That's even more satisfying if sales of the sequel have really popped.

But a more realistic fantasy is that sales of both do well enough that when/if I submit another YA fantasy book to another publisher, my track record counts for me rather than against me, possibly even well enough for them to actually do something when any new book is released rather than ignoring it and then blaming lower-than-desired sales on me (sales of the first book actually weren't bad -- they were quite respectable for a hardcover, and the sell-through of books sold vs. books printed was nice).

So, you can help by:
  1. Buying the book(s)
  2. Telling others about these books -- post on Twitter, Goodreads, Facebook, your blog, etc., or share my posts
  3. Leaving a review at the various bookseller or book discussion sites -- Amazon, B&N, Apple (do they have reviews?), Goodreads
  4. Mentioning them in relevant communities -- fantasy fans, YA fans, steampunk, alternate history
  5. Remembering these books when relevant discussions come up

Friday, July 08, 2016

Them, Us, and All of Us

I got a late start this morning because I was up way too late last night watching the news coverage from downtown. I'm still a little numb that something so awful happened in my metro area (I don't live in Dallas, but that's sort of my "downtown" as the main city in the area). And now I need to get ready to go have lunch with a friend, so this will be short.

I'm not going to get into politics because that's really not my thing, other than to say that I think the main problem in the world right now is that we have a bad "them" way of thinking. Most of the bad things happening come from someone seeing "them" instead of seeing human beings, and this is happening from every corner, every side of every political spectrum, in every conflict. Worse, if you don't join in on condemning the "them," you get turned into a "them." So the hate just builds and escalates, and it's turning into a vicious spiral. Social media is so full of stuff like "people like that" and "those people" and labels and names for groups, and then people congratulating themselves on being better and smarter than those other people like that, and while they don't condone hate or name calling, it's okay when it's directed at those people. You know, people like that who aren't like us, since we know they're all like that. There are all kinds of things you can slot into the "them," and just about every group possible has been considered a "them."

This is what has to stop. Look at individuals and judge them by their words and their behavior, but don't try to paint everyone in whatever groups they belong to with that same brush. Don't assume motives unless someone tells their motives, and if someone tells their motives, you can't assume everyone with the same opinions or actions has the same motive. There aren't any "them." There's just "us," all of us, human beings. The moment you think of someone as "one of them," you dehumanize them, and that makes it easier to hurt them, whether with words or worse.

I guess I had this on my mind when I was writing Rebel Magisters because there really isn't a villain in the traditional sense. There are different sides, but there are good people and bad people on all the sides, and we're forced to look at individuals. There's no assuming that any one group is all good or all bad. Each individual has to decide what's right and what's wrong, and they have to focus on their ideals instead of on any concept of "them." So perhaps my book is more timely than I possibly could have realized, and I hope it makes people think.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

The Damsel Under Stress Reread -- Chapters 5-7

Back to the Damsel Under Stress reread with commentary … now on chapters 5-7

The scene in which Ethelinda and Katie go out to a restaurant was the one I used for readings when I was promoting this book. I even recorded it for a feature on the local newspaper's web site. There were a lot of characters to work with, which let me do voices and generally have fun. I didn't name the restaurant in the book because I have this curse in which any restaurant I name in a book will promptly go out of business, and this one is something of a landmark, so I didn't want to be responsible for killing it. I don't know if the curse applies to blog posts, but just to live dangerously, the restaurant I had in mind was Pete's Tavern, which is famous for being the place where O. Henry wrote "The Gift of the Magi." I went there when I was in New York to research this book, hoping the mojo might rub off. Actually, I've been there multiple times, since it was very close to the hotel where I used to stay when I visited New York (they've since put mini refrigerators and small microwaves in each room and declared them to be "extended stay" suites they only rent for at least a week at a time, so I can't stay there anymore for quick trips).

A few of Ethelinda's blunders during this meal were somewhat based on real-life bits of awkwardness I've either experienced or witnessed. There was the non-couple eating together on a business trip who got mistaken for a romantic couple, and that happened a lot when I was traveling on business. People seem to have these blinders or filters so that they assume that when they see a man and a woman together, they're a couple. There were so many times when I'd be at a trade show and having dinner with a client or colleague because we both happened to get off the show floor at the same time and wanted food or I'd be visiting a client with a colleague and we'd grab dinner together after our meeting wrapped up before we headed to the airport or our hotel, and the restaurant staff behaved like we were on a date. We weren't necessarily being all business and talking business, since when you're thrown together in that kind of proximity you tend to become friends, but there were certainly no signs of affection. It got really awkward when a waiter would treat us like we were having a romantic date. Then there was the proposal Ethelinda rigged that wasn't intended, which reflects those really uncomfortable times when a relationship is way out of sync -- one of you thinks you're just friends, the other is thinking things are inevitably building toward romance. So, yeah, I created a bunch of one-scene characters just to torture them emotionally for our entertainment.

We start to get a bit more backstory on Owen when Rod preps Katie for the Christmas visit. This all stems from when I was drafting the first book in the series. At that time, I really didn't know his backstory. I was just having fun with the idea of the really cute guy who was also painfully shy. A friend who was reading along as I wrote fell madly for Owen (as you do) and wanted to know more about him, especially how he came to be that shy. That was when my quiet, shy character suddenly got very chatty in my head, and I learned/figured out all about his background. I had it in mind from about midway through the first book and used that in writing the next book before I started giving more of it in this book. The full story behind that backstory finally hit in book 5.

I get to go on another anti-shopping rant when Katie has to find gifts for Owen's foster parents. Do you get the impression that I hate shopping for gifts? It's not that I don't like giving things to people. I guess I'm just something of a perfectionist about it, which makes it stressful. There are a few people who are easy to buy for -- I know them well enough to know their interests, they actually have interests, and they don't buy much for themselves so you don't have to worry about what they already have. But buying gifts for people you don't know well is sheer torture, especially when you think you're going to be judged by that gift.

Then there's Katie's undercover assignment, posing as an oil baron's daughter to infiltrate the business that was stolen from Philip -- only to learn that they're probably in league with the bad guys. I think I originally had more planned in this plot line, but the book got very long. I couldn't cut this scene because it sets up some stuff later that explains what's going on with Idris, but at the same time, the reason Katie and Philip are there gets brushed over.

Another part that got trimmed a lot was the day out with Owen. I'm afraid my research was showing, as I wanted to fit in all the fun details I got from visiting New York in December, and I wanted to convey the experience. I found it particularly interesting that the theme for the store windows that year all over the city seemed to be fairy tales. It was like they planned it for me! But I had to cut the scene that was about the magic behind the store windows. This is one of those tricky things as an author -- you need to keep the plot moving and not have scenes of people just having a day out together, but then there are also the Katie and Owen 'shippers who desperately want a scene of them just having a day out together. I believe I put at least one deleted scene from this part of the book on my web site, so the ones who just want to see the characters together can do so, but it doesn't drag down the book itself. All this culminates in the dramatic fall through the ice, which shouldn't be possible on that particular ice rink. Gee, do you think something funny is going on here?

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Magical Portals

If you follow me on Facebook, we had an interesting discussion going on yesterday springing from this spoof article from The Onion on how critical the first 48 hours are in finding children who've traveled through a portal to a fantasy world.

One of my favorite quotes:
“As soon as we learn a child has disappeared down a pool of light underneath their staircase or through a strangely shaped attic door they had never before noticed, we must act fast to assemble search parties and cover as much enchanted territory as possible,” said investigator Joe Phillippe, who urged parents to contact authorities immediately if they believed their child had passed into a gleaming world of crystal palaces or been transported back in time to the age of King Arthur. “If they’re not found within that critical 48-hour window, children typically become disoriented in the thick fog and dense forest of a land where it’s always night, or they’re led astray by a well-dressed fox who promises to take them to a place where kids can play all varieties of games. At that point, they become almost impossible to locate.”

For one thing, this now makes me want to write about the team of investigators that has to jump into action to find children missing in fantasy realms. For another, it brought on a huge wave of nostalgia because I loved these kinds of books when I was a kid. I felt like I recognized all the tropes suggested in the article. There was a strong sense of familiarity.

And yet, when I started thinking about it, I couldn't think of any actual children's books like this that were published when I was a kid, beyond the Narnia books and the Alice in Wonderland books. I have a really strong memory of lying on my stomach on my canopy bed during summer afternoons in Oklahoma when it was too hot to play outside, reading books like this that carried me with the main characters into fantastical worlds, but I can't remember specific books, and I didn't even get into the Narnia books until later, when we were living in Germany. Even before I discovered the Narnia books, I had this sense that there had to be special, magical places where you could enter other worlds. I remember that there were a couple of spots around my neighborhood in Oklahoma that I had decided were magical, where you might enter some other world if you went there under the right circumstances, so I had to have had the idea from somewhere.

In the Facebook discussion, we did come up with a few titles that I may have read, and a few I know I read but that I only vaguely recall. I read so much that I'm sure there were lots of books I enjoyed while I read them but then forgot about when I moved on to the next book.

Or maybe I know about these passages and it all sounds familiar because I actually found some and my memory was magically wiped …

I could think of a lot more (and more recent) books for adults that play on this trope, possible because of whatever other books out there people of my generation grew up reading. In the 80s, this was all over the place. Stephen R. Donaldson had a couple of portal series. Terry Brooks had the Landover series. There was the Coramonde series by Brian Daley, in which an APC crew in Vietnam gets transported to a fantasy world that needs mercenaries. And many, many others. But I don't think those were really playing on nostalgia for the children's books of this type the way more recent things like The Magicians do.

I may go on a nostalgia binge this summer and re-read or read for the first time some of these children's books. And yes, I have a couple of ideas for writing this sort of thing myself.

And if you have recommendations for children's magical portal books, please share!

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Holiday Fireworks

I am now at the 1/4 point of the new book. I was even really diligent and wrote on Saturday. I had grand plans for writing in spite of the July 4 holiday, but it seems that my brain really needs weekends. I ended up just watching some TV documentaries on a topic related to the book.

Though it may have had something to do with the lack of sleep the night before, which will also be an issue today. The smallish town near me did their fireworks on Sunday night, and that's the show I went to. There were some people in the neighborhood shooting off their own when I got home (in spite of that being illegal), and then a thunderstorm hit, replacing the firework sound with thunder. That eventually died down and I got to sleep, only to be awakened at 4 a.m. by the weather radio with a thunderstorm warning, and we got another storm with a rather spectacular light show and lots of thunder and heavy rain.

I stayed at home on July 4 and mostly just practiced music, caught up on the DVR, did some knitting, and cooked, and I was ready for bed early, but then the neighbors started blowing stuff up. That finally stopped and I went to sleep, and then the weather radio went off. This thunderstorm was even more spectacular than the previous night's excitement. Constant lightning and thunder, heavy rain, high winds. And then when that finally died down, the sirens started. I don't know if there were fires from lightning strikes or accidents on wet roads, but the police and/or fire departments were busy all night last night.

But now I really need to focus and do work. I'm getting into what should be the tough part of the book. The first three or so chapters were about why the heroine absolutely should not do this particular thing. The next couple of chapters were about why she absolutely had to do it (in spite of the reasons she shouldn't). Now I have to make her do this thing and figure out what the implications will be.

It's also a week until the release of Rebel Magisters and the paperback of Rebel Mechanics, so I need to do some publicity.

Friday, July 01, 2016

Summer TV

I guess I could call this week the beginning of the summer TV season, with the spring TV season having just ended, with the season finale of Game of Thrones on Sunday. Tonight, Killjoys and Dark Matter return to SyFy.

I liked both of these Not!Firefly shows last year. In terms of story and watchability, I think I ended up liking Killjoys more. That one was more Firefly-like in terms of tone and look. You could imagine it almost being the same universe. I guess you could say the main character was kind of like if Inara became a ninja-like assassin-turned bounty hunter, but otherwise the similarity was in tone, look, style, and maybe theme. Like Firefly, that universe seems to have worlds for the ultra-rich and then colony worlds that are more marginalized. I hope they do a good "previously on" segment before tonight's season premiere because I'm blurry on exactly how the season ended, and I don't have time to rewatch the last episode.

Dark Matter turned out to be iffier. I like the concept a lot more than the execution. I'm a total sucker for stories that get into "what would you be if you didn't know who you were?" and that's the basic premise of the series -- a group of people wakes up from hypersleep on a spaceship with no memories of who they are or how they got there. Unfortunately, the actual show isn't nearly that good. I'm hooked on the big story question of who these people are and how they came to be there, and they do really good cliffhangers at the end of each episode that have me wanting to know more, but I have to admit that I haven't really enjoyed the episodes themselves. I put this one into the Not!Firefly class because you can map the main characters pretty easily onto Firefly characters, with one character being a blend of Kaylee and River. The structure of the universe also seems somewhat similar.

Now I really want to come up with a story about someone with no memories who has to figure out who he or she really is and the kind of person he or she wants to be.

I won't say much about Game of Thrones to avoid spoilers, though it has been interesting seeing how they're going ahead of the books. They've confirmed a few big fan theories from the books, and these things have been big enough that I can't imagine those plot points diverging from the books. I think most of the things that have bothered me in the show have been areas where they went off on huge tangents from the books, so it's nice to know that there's (well, maybe someday) an alternate universe in which things will go a different way. The cinematography of the last couple episodes was absolutely amazing.

We also got the end of Person of Interest last week, which really may have been one of the best science fiction shows on TV, although it was kind of a stealth SF show disguised as a procedural. By the end, it was getting into issues of artificial intelligence and the possible ramifications of that. Again, no spoilers, but I thought the ending was apt and meaningful and just a beautiful work of TV.

Unless there's something absolutely amazing on the schedule next season, my TV viewing is going to be really down next year, which is probably good for me. A lot of things I liked have been cancelled or ended, and some things I used to like have taken turns that make me less interested. I'm down to a couple of regular series that are must-watch (and even they've taken turns for the worst, but I like the characters, so I'm hanging on), a couple that now fall into the "watch OnDemand when I feel like it) category, and then possibly some of the PBS offerings and some mid-season SyFy shows. I'm kind of trying to avoid getting hooked on anything else, unless there's something really stellar, because it's rather liberating not having anything to watch. This week, I've been finding some great movies on TCM, and then there are all those documentaries on the various non-fiction channels. I'm liking the documentaries for background noise for exercise. Talk about multi-tasking -- I'm working out my body and my brain at the same time.