Monday, September 29, 2008

Opera Cat Announces Booksigning in Austin

(Heh. I just typed "Austen." Lit nerd!)




Okay you Austin-ites. I'm going to be in town to celebrate Teen Read Week. I'll be doing a signing at the Barnes and Noble at the Arboretum (10000 Research Blvd. Austin, TX 78759) on October 15th at 7:30 PM. It's a weeknight, but it's your one chance to come out and see me. (Until Highway to Hell comes out in the spring, anyway.) There will be other authors there, too, so, you know, you can come see them, too.

(I've been saving this LOLcat, because it cracked me up for some reason. The Handel reference, I guess. I sang that duet in performance. Music nerd!)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Where the magic happens

Last week, after I posted that I'd cleaned my office, someone (thank you, Rantie) asked where was the photographic evidence of said muck out. In on honor of this site I ran across (www.on-my-desk.com, and seriously how do those people keep their desks so neat?), I'm posting pics of my office. (Disclaimer. This is a week after the clean up. I think I've done pretty well keeping it up.)

So, here we go. My office, the annotated version. Because It's funny how, when you look at your personal space through the eyes of a perfect stranger, you see how... kind of weird you might possibly be.


Notes:
• Horses and ships. If you ever decide to send me an Xmas present... It's sort of weird I don't write about horses and ships, actually. Because that's what I dig.

• Yes, I have a St. Nicholas out in September. It's because... uh... He's also the patron saint of sailors.

• Yes, those are THE shoes I got on super-duper sale. Yes, they are in my office so I can look at them whenever I want to. (I'm going to wear them to <a href="http://www.fencon.org">FenCon</a>, by the way. So don't look for the short person, because these shoes make me 10 feet tall.)

• Bottom shelves. Ugh. Repository of crap.




I don't even know where to start on this one. Sweater I never wear in the summer because my office is always warm. Reading glasses--not because I'm OLD but because I stare at the screen for hours and hours (and sometimes even type). Water bottle, because one catastrophic spill is enough to learn me my lesson. And of course, the postie notes.

Oh, and one thing that does not show in the pictures is the October issue of TEEN VOGUE. (It's actually just out of frame.) And why, you may ask, do you have a copy of TEEN VOGUE? (You know, because the broadsword and tiara will engender NO questions, I'm sure.) Because of this:



SQUEEEEEEEEE!!!!! That's absolutely all I can say about that.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Movie Report: The Other Boleyn Zzzzzzz

I want to be witty and incisive about the world today, but I'm having trouble keeping my eyes open. I'm holding off on coffee because I'm seriously considering going back to some horizontal surface OTHER than the one where I tried to sleep last night and trying to catch a few more Zs.

Long story involving pet sitting Mom's sausage dog (not that bad) and the hellcat who hates me (who, at 18 years of age, can't really be bothered to try and destroy me anymore, so has settled on annoying me to death), rewrite frustrations, and sundry other things.

One thing that SHOULD have cured my sleeplessness: the movie version of The Other Boleyn Girl. So today's semi-coherent post should be appropriate report on this semi-coherent movie.

I really enjoyed Phillipa Gregory's novel. She took some liberties with the gaps in biographical information, but the really scandalous allegations about Anne Boleyn (i.e., incest) she left insinuated. The story stayed firmly with Mary Boleyn (the title character, after all), and though our sympathies were with her, Anne came off as ambitious, driven, sometimes ruthless, always conniving, but intelligent and complex. Henry VIII was not always admirable--where women were concerned, he always seemed to be after the next shiny bauble--but you got why he was that way. All the characters were complex and interesting.

The movie was absolute dreck. I can't even work up a really good rant about it, because it was that boring. The characters were cardboard thin (Henry is a tool, Anne is merely a vindictive bitch who wants what her sister has, Mary is a doormat), the plot makes no sense, the history was either out and out wrong, or abbreviated to the point of incomprehensibilty. It's not even a case of I know too much about the period to just enjoy this movie for a pretty costume drama (the costumes were quite pretty). It's that if I didn't know the Boleyn story already, I would never have been able to understand what happened in this movie.*

I do have one rant. It's feminist and spoilery -- for the movie, not for history, since I assume y'all know how Anne ended up (beheaded) and who her her daughter was (Elizabeth I). (I love how the film treats this as a big reveal at the end. Once again Hollywood assumes Americans are idiots.... Oh, wait.)

Okay, so in the movie, after Anne has been holding out sex until Henry divorces Catherine and marries her, she tries to put him off once too often (until she has the ring and the crown) and Henry rapes her. Not rough seduction, no euphemism, no lie there and think of England. While the camera focuses on Anne's face, not the action, there's clothes tearing, and screaming and crying.

Since the book is all from Mary's POV we don't see what actually happens between Anne and Henry when they finally do the deed, though we do know she's been putting him off, using all the tricks she's learned in France to keep him interested while keeping her legs together. She does give in before they're actually married, and we're not given any details. But I don't RECALL there being any hint of it being forced.

So why this change from the book bothers me so much is the statement Hollywood is making. It's not enough that Anne paid for her ambition by, you know, getting her head cut off. She also had to pay for being a strong, manipulative woman by being raped. Anne made the unforgivable Hollywood sin of being in charge of her own sexuality, and of using that sexuality to lead a king around by his dick.** She was called a witch and a whore back then, and apparently we haven't come so far in five hundred years, because the makers of this film thought she didn't suffer enough before being tried and executed. And this makes me very very sad.

Fortunately, this movie is so very bad and boring, I doubt it will have a wide spread cultural impact.


I finally got my cup of coffee, but it hasn't kicked in yet, so I hope this post makes more sense than that movie did.


**The actual historical events were much much more complex than this, and Henry's wanting to marry Anne was the catalyst, but not the sole basis for England's break with Rome. But in the movie, it does come down to what Little Henry wants.

*For full disclosure, I should mention the Shotime series "The Tutors" also plays fast and loose with historical detail (rockstar!Henry, obviously), and yet it's been one of my guilty pleasures for two seasons. I mean, they had me at Sam Neill as Cardinal Wolsey, but there was no going back after they cast Peter O'Toole as the Pope. I think it's been picked up for a third season, but I'm not sure I'm going to keep watching it now that my all my favorites have gone to the block.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Yay for autumn

The irony of the first day of fall is this: It's been cooler for the last week than it is already at 11 AM today. :-P Predicted 90's today, which isn't all that odd for Texas in September. But ugh.

My office is weird. It's always colder than the rest of the house in the winter (which doesn't bother me that much, because I can bundle up) and in the summer it is significantly warmer. Which is a problem, because there's only so far you can strip down and remain decent. I don't need to garner a reputation with the FedEx guys.

It doesn't help that I really dislike being warm, especially while I work. I'll deal with it if I'm doing something outdoors, or rusticating for the weekend. I can read a book for pleasure, watch TV, whatever. But I have a terrible time concentrating when the room temperature is over 80 degrees. (The house thermostat is set at 78, but the office stays about 84 on a summer day.)

I think this has contributed to my funky work schedule, wherein I do most of my work at night. Part of it is the psychological freedom of the magic "after 10" hour, when everyone is asleep and the stores are closed and no one will call on the phone. But it's also the one time during the summer that my office is the same temperature as the rest of the house.

So, anyway. Thank goodness for the laptop. I'm off to (my) Starbucks were it's always freezing cold. I suspect this is to make people (like me) who come and work/talk/hang out buy more coffee. I have no problem with that.

Happy Autumn Equinox, everyone. :-)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Office Scavenger Hunt

Yesterday my desk reached a critical mass of clutter. My creative space is pretty indicative of the way my brain works. At the base level, everything is organized. There's a place for everything, and things are generally in them, maybe not alphabetized and color coordinated, but generally in the spot where I'll know where to look for them.

The reason I have to be organized on the ground level is so that I'm free to make a certain amount of mess while I work. Notes and books and scraps of paper and postie notes and iPod cords and Excedrin bottles and tubes of Burt's Bees Lip Balm. That's normal. As are the 12 lipglosses and assorted hair scrunchies. But when I'm REALLY hitting it, then there's an accumulation of coffee cups, drink glasses, candy wrappers, unsorted junk mail, bills I've paid but haven't filed yet, plus reams of paper drafts--the one with my editors notes on it, the next version with MY notes on it, the outdated section with my critique groups notes on it.

Anyway, yesterday I couldn't find the map I'd drawn of Bluestone Hill Inn, the setting of the RWIP. reWIP? Anyway. The revisions I'm trying to get done. So, I finally took some time and cleaned up my office. Here are some things I rediscovered in the process:
  • Floor in front of my bookshelves
  • Two pairs of flip flops
  • My Jane Austen Action Figure
  • Magazine turned to article on how to stay organized
  • Three lip-glosses of the same color that I keep forgetting I already own.
  • My favorite baby name book (for characters, don't anyone get excited)
  • Starbucks gift card (Yay!)
  • SFWA dues notice. (Oops. ☹)
  • Card from (Thank you!)
  • Three packages of Maggie Quinn Hot Mints
  • Thermacare heatwrap for arthritic hand (right) that unfortunately doesn’t do anything for arthritic mouse-button finger (index)
  • K. Hudson Price's birthday present. (Oops again.)

I guess I can add "my mind" to that. But that remains debatable.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Girl Crushes and politics

SNL can be hit or miss with the humor sometimes, but this one was dead on. Jabs at Palin and Clinton both but really skewers the screwed up way we think about gender and politics. It makes me want to bang my head against the wall the way people jump on an idiom as sexist, and ignore platform issues that are actually, you know, unfair to women. (And that's all I have to say about that.)

Now, on to my Tina Fey girl-crush (And yes, I realize the irony of using the word 'girl' in a post in which I crab about sexism. "Girl," like "Bitch" does not offend me except in a pejorative context.):




And speaking of girl-crushes, how about this piece of awesome:

Meg Cabot donating proceeds of Mia Thermopolis penned book "Ransom My Heart" to Greenpeace.*
(From www.dearauthor.com via

("[Fictional character] Mia Thermopolis will write a Historical Romance novel to be published by Avon A and all the proceeds will be given to Greenpeace. The plot of the book is described as this: Finnula Crais, “the fair Finn,” is an adventurous beauty with more than a few secrets of her own. Finnula needs money for her sister’s dowry, and fast. Luckily she happens upon a knight in need of rescue in a local tavern - a nobleman who evidently has returned home to England from the Crusades with saddlebags of jewels, money, and lots of it. Finnula reasons what could be simpler than to kidnap him and hold him for ransom? ").

That plot sounds fabulously ridiculous, and something I'd read for fun even if it wasn't for a good cause. Cabot has started an activism section of her website, which pleases me greatly, because a bazillion teens (and teens at heart) read her stuff, and as y'all know from my despairing posts about my neighbors wasteful habits, I don't think enough can be said about what each person can do to protect the environment.

Wow, I'm political today.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Writing tip of the day: Dialogue and Dialect

So, I was watching True Blood on HBO. (I seriously, highly recommend the books by Charlaine Harris. Go buy or check them out now.) And I'm thinking: Wow, they are really over exaggerating the rural Louisiana accents. Not one really talks like that. That's almost a caricature.

Then I was in the mall on Friday, and there were three girls, possibly two girls and their mother, and they were talking about finding their way around the department store. And I swear, hand to God, they sounded JUST LIKE the TV show. I mean, accents so thick you could cut through them, and that weird way that Louisianans sort of half swallow their sounds. East Texans do that, too. (They may have been refugees from Hurricane Ike.)

The thing about dialect (fancy word for accent) is that it can convey a lot about your character without your having to TELL the reader. It can show if they're educated, casual, precise, slow, smarmy, proper and formal... all kinds of things. If the way they speak changes in a certain situation, that tells us something, too. It's a very useful tool.

But in the case of a distinct accent, how do you handle this without driving your reader crazy or coming off like a stereotype?

The book I'm rewriting now is set in rural Alabama. The Alabama placement is more in the center of the mouth, which is why "I" sounds like "Ah" when they talk. (As in "Ah'm goin' t'the store.") To produce a Texas accent aloud, all you have to do is smile when you talk, and run most of your words together while still talking real slow. Also, it's "real" and never "really." In fact, you can discard the "ly" from most adverbs. i.e., run real quick, sneak real quiet, dance real graceful.)

As a writer, you don't really convey the pronunciation of things in your dialogue--at least, I don't. It's one thing when a character is first introduced, you might have your POV character note the way they talk by spelling one line phonetically. (I'll do that for any unfamiliar word, actually. In Highway to Hell, Lisa uses the word "bruja" (Spanish for "witch") and Maggie says (in narration): "It sounded like she said 'brew-ha' but with more spit in the 'h'.")

But what you do instead is reflect the dialect through the grammatical idiosyncrasies. For instance, the "ly" thing in the Texas accent. In dialogue, you dispense with it, and you can say something like "We was going real quick to the store, and then coming right back." Your eye reads it in an accent without your having to spell it out. If I had to write (or read) a book full of dialogue like "We wuz goin' reel quick tuh thuh store, an then comin' raht back." I'd drive a spike through my eye. It would be like reading a book written in LOLcat.

So, that's your writing 101 lesson for Monday. How to convey dialect without driving your copy editors and readers crazy.

Friday, September 12, 2008

New Cover!

Quick post today. Up to my eyeballs in stuff today.

But look! Amazon.com now has the cover for Highway to Hell. Now I feel free to post it, in all it's glory:


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

TV Rambles

Watched Fringe last night. Reeeeeaaaaally liked it. Wasn't sure I was going to get past the melting people on the airplane (What is it about JJ Abrams and planes?) but ended up completely engrossed. Since Lost lost me after the first season, I feel like I'm taking a chance here. But for now, I'm hooked.

Yes, I know I'm a freak because I don't like Lost. I also *hate* Desperate Housewives, and I'm sort of ashamed of my brief flirtation with Grey's Anatomy, like that guy you're sort of enamored of until you find out that there really isn't anything interesting underneath the surface charm.

I'm on and off again with House. I liked the first season, then his whole downward spiral got TOO too. But I watched last season in reruns over the summer, and the whole thing with the 30 intern elimination really hooked me back in. I think it really freshened the formula back up, which it needed.

I still haven't watched last week's Bones. I'm saving that as a reward to myself when I get my rewrites done. I confess, I watch that show for Bones and Booth. I don't even care when it doesn't make sense. I missed Terminator, too, but managed not to record it, either. I'm going to have to download that one.

What am I forgetting. By the way, my friend Candace Havens is blogging about the new TV season. In addition to being the author of fun, sexy books about kick-butt heroines with complicated love lives, she's also an entertainment reporter. (Which is how I saw the first two episodes of Tru Blood, which I will blog about in a separate post.)

See, this is why I have to get caught up on work. I love the new TV season, when everything has the possibility of being awesome.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Monday (well, Sunday night sortta) Madness

It IS technically Monday. And I seriously need to go to bed, because I'm off to Dallas in the morning, to do stock signings at many many bookstores. And then if I'm not dead, I'm going to make my compatriots go with me to LUSH at North Park Mall. I'm going with Candace, and she's nuts for all things Ed Hardy, and they've just opened an Ed Hardy store in North Park, so I predict she won't be hard to convince. (I am more of an Anthropologie girl myself. Or would be, if I had all the money I wanted to spend on clothes. I would at least have a wardrobe full of their sweaters. But I like to shop and get ideas. I have this dream I will someday be caught up enough on stuff that I can sew some adorable Anthropologiesque clothes, and no one will know the differences. I actually rock a sewing machine, though you'd never know it, the way I dress.)

Where was I? Oh, yeah. Stock signings in Dallas.

The funny thing about Dallas and Fort Worth is, people who are not from around these parts always lump them together. "The DFW Metroplex." And people who live in the MIDDLE lump them together, but really, it's a huge big deal (in my head) to go to Dallas, like it's the other end of the...

Oh my GOD, those IDIOTS across the street are dumping their beer bottle trash down the storm drain AGAIN! I swear before all that is holy one day I am going to catch them on camera and they are going to have a littering fine like you would not believe. These are the kids of the woman who runs her sprinkler for four hours, in the middle of the day, in the middle of a drought. Maybe I'll document that, too.

Though if I haven't documented the POT DEALING I suspect is going on over there, then I guess I'm never going to do anything. But you know, dealing pot stays over there. Well, except when their friends/customers drive their cars into the neighbor's house. (Tried to find the link to that post. I need to make better tags or LJ needs a better search function.) But darn it, stop wrecking my environment, idjits.

Now I don't really feel like writing about rampant brand name consumerism any more. Grump. Some people take all the fun out of things...

Have a good Monday, folks. Hope your days, and nights, are free of pot-smoking, littering idiots.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Fieldtrip to the 5 Randoms

The thing about a blog is that while you get the inner workings of my demented mind through my ramblings, if you want the answers to direct questions, you have to go to someone else's blog. Check out the interview with yours truly at this charming blog called the 5 Randoms. I like how their posts are in the form of lists. I like lists.

So, in honor of the 5 Randoms blog, here are 5 Random things I'm happy about today:

1) Got over a big hump in the revisions of the southern gothic novel. (Seriously, I've been working in circles for days, and last night I finally moved on to the next chapter.)

2) A friend who I thought had dropped off the planet touched base in her LJ yesterday.

3) There was exactly enough cream for my second cup of coffee this morning, so I don't have to go to the store until this afternoon.

4) Even thought we're not done with the heat yet, I can feel the turn of the season coming in the cool damp of the air first thing in the morning.

5) Hell Week was on an end cap when I walked through B&N the other day. Right in the mail flow of traffic into the mall. Squee!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Consumerism, or, if I blog about it, can I write that purse off on my taxes?

Wow. I just LOST an entire day. How does that happen?

The booksigning on Saturday was Maaaahvelous. I had a great time, and the B&N at Hurst was awesome. They put me right up front, there was a poster with the new art--which attracted lots of attention.

Then afterward I grabbed some dinner with my girlfriends and then we went shopping. I was looking for a fall purse, and the only one that just made me keel over with wanting was out of my price range. Considering I still haven't fixed the AC on my car, I would have a hard time justifying the price tag.

But not that hard a time. See:

Air Conditioner vs. Kate Spade Bag
A/CPurse
Texas is hotter than armpit of HellI've already lasted since May
It will still be hot until OctoberIt's September now
Will no longer arrive everywhere windblown and sweatyWill arrive everywhere stylishly accessorized
Will increase resale value of carWill increase shallow, consumer-based happiness
Will last until sale of carClassic shape will be in style forever
...Can by 4 purses for price of 1 A/C
...No A/C gets better gas mileage, better for the environment.
...Don't drive Jeep that much anyway.

I guess I'd better get to work, or I won't be getting either.