Sunday, June 29, 2008

I Have a Cold

Saturday night found me curled up in bed with my laptop, reading an erotica e-book. It was research, I swear. No, really, it was. And here's how you know. My cold is stuck at that obnoxious nose-running-like-a-faucet stage, which prompted me, once all witnesses were safely asleep, to shove Kleenex up my nostrils. What's less sexy than that?!

I am so tired right now, but before I can post this and go to bed, apparently I need to reinstall Internet Explorer. I am seriously considering getting a Mac next time.

While I'm drifting hazily on exhaustion and thinking about technology and how much it can suck, I'll mention that it's absolutely not comfortable to curl up on my side in bed while reading my laptop's screen. And this is why I don't think that e-books - while they serve a valuable role in the market and can be quite convenient - are going to completely replace books anytime soon.

Sure, there are e-readers that are less cumbersome than laptops or PCs. But those are expensive little devices that require occasional recharging and internet connectivity. And they're a lot more costly to replace than a $6.99 paperback left in an airplane. They're also a little harder to share. So, sorry, I can't slip you the erotica e-book that I just finished, or at least not legally.

To recap, I'm tired and I have a cold. G'night.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Emailing and Blogging

How many email accounts do you use? (Check out the handy poll to the right.)

I have 5 different email accounts that I use. These are all current accounts and none forwards to another; if I want to see what email has arrived at, say, the account I use for friends and family only, or the one I use for online ordering, etc. I have to log in and check that account individually.

In addition to all the other usernames, accounts, and passwords I have scattered about the various computers, subscriptions, and internets of the world, it's a bit much, really. But it can be so very helpful to see who's got what information about me and how they're using it.

I've not got much else to say tonight, because I want to go to bed and I've been busy elsewhere.

I'm a big believer in truth, especially in writing. As you're all aware, I share some pretty naked stuff here and, if you've read them, in my personal essays. I respond to real, soul-baring truth in others' writing and strive to achieve it in my own. And while I don't publish my home address at the top of each post, I don't really blog anonymously, either. Friends, church members, and my mother-in-law read my blog, amongst others.

So I've been experimenting with a little anonymous blog-like public writing elsewhere, and that's been a little fun.

Because while I'm comfortable standing naked before you, a gal's got to keep a few secrets, dontcha know. And in today's world, it's possible to keep secrets while sharing them openly. Brilliant! How perfect for the modern inhibited exhibitionist.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Mystery Writer?

It has been a long time since I've talked about my current novel. Let me assure you that's not because it's going so smoothly.

I know my characters well, and I like them. (Even the not-so-nice ones.) I know my plot, and I like it, too.

But I hate what I'm writing and how I'm writing it.

I don't know if this is "writer's block" because I have an outline and I can force myself to sit down and choke out the appropriate number of words to complete the scenes I anticipated writing with excitement when I plotted out the novel (which I didn't do in too much detail, because I wanted to leave open the possibility of surprise and excitement, even for me).

But I'm certainly stuck in the doldrums. I am bored to tears with what I'm writing, though I think the story and characters are viable. I wonder if a writer's workshop would help.

Which leads me to wonder more deeply: Can I write a mystery? Can I even write at all? Have I just been deluding myself? Perhaps I'll forever be an almost-writer: pretty good, not good enough.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Bang! Bang! Bang!

Although I might now be a spoiled rich girl, I have not forgotten my roots. (You do notice the tongue stuck firmly in my cheek, right? Whatever else I might do, I tend to take myself lightly.) Tonight I drove a hybrid car for the first time, and I enjoyed it very much.

The part where the engine stops (apparently) running when the car is stopped, however, kept freaking me out. I'm sure I'll get used to this, but my history with cars that die when they stop is not one that involves vehicles functioning well. I used to drive an old VW Rabbit that died whenever you hit the clutch unless you gave it a little gas simultaneously. This made approaching 4-way stops and driving in rush hour traffic especially challenging as I had to pretend that I had three feet. Ah, the good old days. When I leased my first new car, a standard, entry-level Saturn SC2, I thought I was living in the lap of luxury. And I was, for an editorial assistant with student loans and no independent wealth!

I was out on my own tonight, in the new car, because it was Greater St. Louis Sisters in Crime "Get Your (Right) Gun" night at Top Gun Shooting Range in Imperial, Missouri.

I had a great time and learned a lot (though a nice chunk of the material was familiar to me thanks to Lori L. Lake's guest blogging at The Graveyard Shift) but I'll include just the personal injury report for now.

By the end of my time at the range, I was flinching badly with each shot. The instructor assumed it was because of the recoil, and that was partly true. (I'd moved up from a .22 semi-automatic pistol to the same model 9mm that the St. Louis County Police carry.) But mostly it was because the casings kept attacking me.

Several of them landed on my head or on my arm. One somehow got behind both my glasses and safety glasses, and others must have have hit my forehead, because it's streaked with soot. My (formerly favorite) white shirt is a bit charred in front. And, worst of all, two fresh casings went straight down my neckline, burning my chest! I have a couple of painful little blisters to show for this, though they just look like blemishes from afar. The weird thing is that I chose the shirt because it does NOT have a stretched out neckline and fits up above the collarbone, as I prefer. My shooting partner wasn't having the same problem, but the instructor said that the issue was with the gun, not with my stance.

Anyway, it was a GREAT program and I had a wonderful time, malicious casings notwithstanding. And then I got to drive home in the fabulous "new" car, which is especially great because we haven't had to start paying for it yet (with the exception of the check that passed from Geico to the dealership via our checking account).

It wasn't just the shiny hybrid car in the parking lot that probably stood out at the range. I wore khakis and black Danskos, carried a canvas bag that says, "Fall Into A Good Book!" and walked in carrying a latte from Starbucks. (Ah, latte. Is there any more wonderful food on this earth? I think it's better than pizza.) And so we end with a reprisal of the spoiled rich girl image.

The big surprise, of course, was that none of these things really stood out, at all. Because, though we on the left love stereotypes at least as much as our friends on the right, gun lovers don't fit into neatly categorized little boxes, either. And there was a clearly marked recycling box right behind the firing stalls for empty ammo boxes.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Pacing

In interesting fiction, characters usually have schedules that would wear a normal person right out. I mean, "and then I went home and laid on the couch for two hours before pouring myself a bowl of cereal and attacking my laundry" isn't exactly page-turning excitement, flat prose aside. Since I'm about to detail my entire weekend for you, it's a good thing that this one was paced more like commercial fiction than like, say, my idea of a good time.

Friday was a day of exciting storms, followed by dinner with a friend and his new girlfriend. They stayed late, which was fun, except . . . well, I was starting to feel a little off.

Immediately after they left I realized that I was unpleasantly ill, presumably with whatever felled Paul last weekend. The problem with that was that I was planning to leave the house around 6:30 on Saturday morning to drive down to Cape Girardeau for the Heartland Writers' Guild Conference. After setting out some things for our neighborhood yard sale.

Paul woke me at 6:15, whereupon I nursed Ada and went straight back to sleep. In the house with my family. It was restless sleep. Paul took a couple of the yard sale things down, and left them out with honor-system envelopes. After listening to Ada crying for a while - she was upset that she wasn't getting her morning nap - I gave up on my own sleep goal and snuggled Ada into her crib.

While she napped, Ellie and Paul went to go get a babysitter while I readied a few things around the house, tried to rest some more, then showered and got dressed when Ellie and Paul left for gymnastics and the sitter was having trouble keeping Ada happy. My precious younger child knew that I was in the house, and naturally wanted my attention.

So I plopped into our rental Hyundai and headed for the conference. By myself. The car was full of old Starbucks detritus, but sadly bereft of fuel, as I noticed as I headed south of I-55 with the dashboard's orange warning light staring at me accusatorily. I pulled off at Festus/Crystal City, and learned that the whole community was completely out of power. Next services, 13 miles. Gulp. Fortunately, the under-powered Elantra sipped fuel slowly enough to coast into the gas station under its own power, though the driving experience didn't impress me enough to want to petition Enterprise to let us purchase the car rather than returning it on Monday.

I still felt like crap, but I really enjoyed the conference and am very glad I went. The Guild includes some really friendly people and I got a lot out of all three "workshops" I attended (really speaker sessions with Q&A at the end). A couple of the authors were painfully bitter, but I learned from them, too. Overall, a very positive experience despite my ailment and the fact that the sole women's restroom on our floor was out of commission all afternoon.

The trip back was uneventful, including my next stop in Festus/Crystal City for some desperately needed Sarahlynn-fuel. Sadly, despite a complete lack of obvious storm damage under the day's bright blue skies, power was still out and no caffeine was to be had.

I made it home safely and got Ada to bed before collapsing on the couch to car shop online for a few hours before stumbling to my own pillow.

On Sunday morning, Paul was very solicitous, taking the girls to get Starbucks while I slept in a little. I was feeling much, much better, but appreciated the slow start to my day, especially knowing what was coming.

Mid-morning, we all loaded into the van and went to Forest Park for the Down Syndrome Association's annual Buddy Walk fundraiser, where Ellie enjoyed a bouncy house and 2-story inflatable slide (though she burned her face on the hot vinyl) and both girls played in the Discovery Toys booth. They were ready for solid naps when we got home, since 90-plus degree heat doesn't agree with any of us.

After naps, we headed the opposite direction, out to Wentzville for The Greater St. Louis Renaissance Faire, which Paul really wanted to attend. No, no, I enjoy it also. And the girls had a good time, too. Their big favorite was the petting zoo (goats! llamas! a bunny! a donkey! dogs! ducks!) and Ellie had fun on her "warhorse" pony ride. Paul delights in bad pirate humor and bawdy singalongs.

By closing time, when we piled back into the van, we were all overheated and exhausted again. it was really really hot in St. Louis today. By 6:30, on the way home, the temperature had dropped down to 90 again.

Dinner, baths, Ada to bed . . . I passed out for a while, waking up to watch Law and Order CI with Paul and write this. Soon, I hope to head to bed for an uninterrupted stretch. Best laid plans and all that.

Interspersed throughout all this, of course, was car shopping and car talking. The rental goes back tomorrow, and we're still chasing our tails. Paul's planning to go in a little late tomorrow so that we can take a candidate car to our mechanic bright and early. Here's hoping we have a little more debt soon. And maybe a pre-loved hybrid Accord.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Suspense Night

Tonight I attended a really cool event at the county library headquarters.

Although the reading/signing/socializing was at the library, the event was sponsored by Borders and Starbucks. That meant that Borders had a table in the back, selling books by the authors on the panel, and Borders supplied complimentary treats and coffee afterwards. How cool is that?

The readings were great; I got to listen to 3 authors I'd never heard of before, all of whom were fantastic. Megan Abbott, in particular, is someone I'd never pick up off a bookstore shelf - early-to-mid 20th Century mob/noir not really being my thing - but WOW. Her prose sings and she's obviously worth reading, no matter what she's writing.

Scott Phillips was a fascinating mix of disgusting, very smart, and funny, a combination I found very appealing.

Susan McBride was who I went to see, and she delivered all I'd hoped (and more). Plus, I got to talk to her husband, who's an old friend of mine, or at least someone I played hockey with a long time ago. (I'm awkward in social situations - and OK with that, generally).

Paul Harris did a very good job hosting. Ridley Pearson and Michael Kahn didn't attend (bummer, since I really wanted to hear both of them).

Reed Coleman initially tried to talk over Susan too much, but she held her own and he turned out to be a really great guy. Also, the most useful advice of the evening came from him.

In response to several people asking the usual questions like, "where do you get your inspiration?" and, "What it you tell the story and it's only 120 pages?" he said: New writers tend to fall in love with what they write. More experienced writers learn to fall in love with the writing itself.

Beautiful advice. (And very true for me as a beginning writer.)

The answer to the first question, by the way, was consistent across all the panelists and true of me as well: writers are often people who aren't fully in the moment; they are sitting on their own shoulders, observing every situation they're in. Everything is inspiration; the magic part is in the writing.