Thursday, September 24, 2009

Part Two

The move progresses.

Unfortunately, not at the happy and problem-free pace one would hope for.

Do you remember Mr normal, non-creepy, drama-free, chill dude from last week?  I called him up and said I liked the house, liked the neighborhood and would like to move in.  You know what he said?  Nothing.

He didn't answer the phone.  Nor did he return my message.  Not the first one, not the second.  Neither did he answer my e-mail.  *rolls eyes*  Honestly, people.  It's a roommate situation, not a date.  As a friend of mine said, "he turned me into a psycho ex-girlfriend," making me call all the time, waiting for some crumb of attention that's never going to come.  Tell me men, how hard is it to just say, "no" or "the room is already rented"?

Anyway, that was a disheartening experience.  The first place I saw where I could really imagine myself living, and he didn't want me.  Even worse, he couldn't bother to tell me he didn't want me around, so I wound up wasting four whole days of finding another space - putting me into panic mode instead of ahead-of-the-game mode.  But find another space I did.

It's a bit more expensive than the first place, and it's in a snootier part of town, but it's sooooo cute!  It's the kind of cute where I might be forced to post pictures once I move in.  The landlord believes in colour, so he's painted the walls with strong bold colours - each room is different.  And he upgraded the joint to a state where HE would want to live, not just a state where it's livable.

There are skylights.  Two of them - and one of them is going to be over my bed.  My BED people!  He closed in the patio in order to get more room.  There's a walk-in closet and tiled floors.  It's also pet-friendly.  I am a happy Venus.  I made three trips to Phoenix, saw about twenty places, and put over 800 miles on my car in order to find the right fit.  I deserve skylights, dammit.

On the other side of the coin, the packing progresses on pace.  As do the daily asthma attacks brought to you by the letter D (for dust).  My groovy, fantastic friend (GFF) boxed up my kitchen yesterday.  All the cupboards are empty, and I've been attempting to empty out my cleaning supplies on each new surface as it is uncovered. 

I've been forbidden to purchase anything edible, and have been given instructions to eat out of my fridge or off the few dry goods I was allowed to keep on the counter.  I'm trying to approach it like a stay at a Residence Inn, but it's beyond weird to walk into my kitchen and see it so bare.

I have a suitcase packed - out of which I'm living.  My cat is FREAKING OUT and my bathroom is stripped clean of all girly things.  All my books have found a box to inhabit and I was ordered to return all checked-out books to the library and NOT to pick up any more because if I get them, I'm going to read them.  Ummm, yeah, no.  I mean, yes, of course I'll read them.  That's the point.  But, she thinks I'll read them instead of packing while not under her eagle eye.  She is right.  But if I don't read, I go crazy.  So I couldn't agree to that latest edict.  But I did pick up the pace on the solo packing to prevent getting in trouble.  Yes, I'm scared of her. 

The movers are going to come by on Sunday.  My first-born has already been promised, and after GFF packed my kitchen I've also pledged my second-born, so the movers are going to have to settle for good, old-fashioned legal tender, but I have a feeling they'd prefer a limb instead.  Or maybe two, both an arm and a leg.  I researched them though, and they get high marks for customer satisfaction, plus they were upfront about their quote and I'm willing to believe that they won't screw me over.  Still, I'll be a one-armed, one-legged, childless wonder when this is all done.

In other news, I broke a tooth last week.  I haven't gotten in taken care of because I can only handle one emergency at a time, and right now moving is taking up all my stress.  I don't have the effort for dental stress too.

The moment my eagle has landed in the new home, I get to find a dentist.  Ugh.
Make that a one-armed, one-legged, childless, toothless wonder.


Just finished: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society
Just finished: Eight Grade Bites: The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod
Just finished: Undead and Unpopular
Currently reading: Pride & A Pregnancy Secret
Currently reading: The Boy Who Never Grew Up 

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

So I was reading this book the other day...

No, I'm not going to tell you which one. 

And I realized halfway through that even though I was enjoying the story, I wasn't buying it.  You see, in this book, the heroine was afraid to get serious about the hero because someone in his family had treated her badly before.  The setup is a lot more complex than that, but that's the gist of it.

Now, in all the set-up and character building and world building etc, I understand that there's not always room for everything a reader would like to see.  But the thing is, in this book, the whole crux of her internal obstacle rested on the fact that his family had treated her badly, and even for the sake of love, she wasn't willing to put up with being treated badly again.  I buy it.  I totally do.  We girls need love, but we need dignity too, and one can't come at the expense of the other.

However - for all that the author went on and on about how badly the heroine was treated, she never SHOWED us. 

At first it was a teaser.  A good way to keep your reader interested in the heroine's emotional turmoil.  Little bits of this and that were told to us through third-party eyes.  There were allusions to the humiliations she'd suffered.  Occasionally she'd even speak about it in her own words, but only to say that she wouldn't speak about it. 

The set-up slowly moved from titillation to frustration.  Through all 400+ pages we hear about how awful this family was to her.  But the author never showed us.  Ever.  I needed a flashback.  I needed the moment she broke and said, "no more" or, conversely, the moment she was first broken by those bastards.  Something to feel and touch and taste how awful it was to be in the heroine's shoes, so I could truly get behind her objection to being with her hero.

Imagine talking to someone about Hurricane Katrina.  The story I got felt like the perspective of someone who had watched it on TV.  They glued themselves to the set, they memorized every statistic and cried along with the nation, but that isn't the story I'm interested in.  That's a story I already know.  I want the story of the survivor on her roof.  The person trapped in that hellhole stadium, the guy trying to hold on to three kids with only two arms as he wades through rushing storm water.  The Anderson 360 type of stories are the ones that bring the pain home to a place that pierces my heart.  The rest is talking heads and manufactured sympathy.

The author never delivered.  There was a second or two in real time when the author gave us a sneer from the family so we could understand that the dislike continued through to today, but what the book was begging for was a good ol' fashioned flashback.  Is there some new rule about flashbacks I haven't heard yet?  Like the anti-epilogue camp and the no prologue war?  I know there's a whole "write in the now" thing, and there's a (proven) theory that once you start talking in the "had" you're taking your reader out of their need to turn the page because you're no longer talking about the current story ... but it's easy to avoid that.  I know it's easy, because I've not only read it, I've done it, and if a brand-new baby writer like me can do it, a published edited author sure can.

So anyway, I finished reading the book.  I never got my flashback and I was left with a vaguely unsatisfied feeling.  I wish I knew, in the grand scheme of things, whether this was an editorial or authorial failing.  Was the editor the one pushing for the flashback to be taken out?  Or was she pushing for more info on why the heroine was so resistant, not realizing that by doing so she was only whetting reader appetite?  Was the author unaware that she'd only provided appetizers and skimped on the meat?  Is the author firmly anti-flashback and wouldn't be caught dead writing one?  I'll never know.

I do know what I'm doing with the book though, I'm putting it on my PBS bookshelf as it's in high demand, and when someone snaps it up, I'll be more than happy to pass it on.

Just finished: A Promise To Cherish

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Time to love

I read a review the other day where someone said that they didn't buy the HEA because the amount of time from when the heroine met the hero, to when they declared their undying love, was too little.  It was only a matter of days, or less than two weeks, something like that.
This is an issue I've faced in my own writing.  I tend to be very H & H focused and don't give a lot of page time to side-stories and subplots.  To me it's all about the journey H & H travel once they meet each other, and often, I put them in situations where they don't want to be away from each other.  They meet, recognize the chemistry, and then act on it - staying together until the end.

Sometimes I see the need in my work for the H & H to have more time together.  Not time on the page, but simple physical time in terms of days and weeks.  But I feel like wedging in those days slows down the story.  Usually my work is designed just like the books say - pile on problem after problem, only giving partial solutions until the ultimate Black Moment demands that everything either comes together or falls apart. 

This, by necessity, creates me writing long, intricate days where a lot of things happen to H & H that draw them closer emotionally while they solve their problems together.  They are not allowed to rest and re-coup.  They don't have down time to sit and bask in the shiny, happy presence of each other.  They battle their personal odds at greater stakes each time.  And they don't take two weeks off in the middle to date and spend time gazing at their navels thinking "does she or doesn't she?"

So how do you find that balance?  Readers want, need and deserve to have a story that constantly moves forward.  But characters deserve to have their futures built on something more stable than seven days of crazy and some damn good boinking. 

I'm moving right now, and one of the things I'm doing for myself is taking the time to digest each potential living situation so I'm not making a rash decision.  I'm taking the time to deliberate on both my needs and my wants - and that's just about a temporary place to rest my head for the next few years, not who I'm going to have children and build a life with.  Why would I expect any less consideration in my characters?

In fact, in Orion's Kiss, I went back and added an extra day for H & H to get better acquainted before they took off on a mini road-trip together.  I knew he needed more time to care enough about her to want to travel with her, and she needed more time to trust him with a few of her secrets.  Yet, the plot and tension advances based on a couple of timelocks, so their trust in each other develops in a pressure-cooker.  And their personal revelations are the result of both stress and necessity.  The whole 400 pages take place in a matter of five days. 

In Never A Bridesmaid they have maybe a week together before the Black Moment.  Sure they go through some tough things during that week, but is seven days really enough to know that you want someone in your life forever?  

It could be that in my writing my characters live the way I never would in reality.  I'm not talking about aliens and bone-melting orgasms.  I'm talking about letting my characters take risks and jump in with both feet in situations where I'd be a lot more cautious.  My life wouldn't sell as a book, but my characters are living a steroidal version of life.  It has to be harder, better, faster, stronger for them.  Otherwise my readers will fall asleep. 

Regardless, I suspect I'm still going to have to rely on a willing suspension of disbelief.

Currently reading: E is For Evidence

Monday, September 14, 2009

I spent the weekend looking for a new home.

I am lucky in many ways. Some I'm not willing to post publicly, some relate directly to this post.

For example, right now, I am lucky to not be working, because it gives me time to search carefully for a new place to live.  I am lucky to have a brilliant, wonderful, friend to help me move.  I am lucky to be able to afford enough gas to spend two days driving all around hell & gone (aka Phoenix) in search of the perfect living situation. And I am lucky that it's a buyer's market so I had a plethora of choices.

By the time I headed north on Friday I had 24 people / places on my list to visit. I couldn't get to all of them, I didn't even want to. Let me give y'all some hints when offering a place to rent in your home.

First of all ... make sure it doesn't smell. I know sometimes it's tough to recognize scents in your own home, but a fair application of baking soda, or maybe, I don't know, opening a window, should do the trick.

Secondly ... don't offer the broom-closet under the stairs and expect to pay off your mortgage. I saw so many small rooms that would barely hold my queen-sized bed, much less my bed and dresser - and had people asking $500+  for the privilege of that space.  Do a bit of market research folks, I can get my own apartment for that money and not have to put up with you.

Third ... don't be creepy.  This one is mostly for the men.  Specifying you'll only have a female roommate because you're divorced and women "make a house a home" whereas men "tend to be slobs," means that you're actually looking for a housekeeper / live-in mistress, not a roommate.  And do I really need to say that you shouldn't mail me a "roommate interview" questionnaire that reads like a dating profile?  "Two things that  people first notice about me" is not an acceptable question to ask a roommate.

It's also none of your business what I do for a living, or how I make my money.  It might come up in conversation after we've met, but really all you should be concerned about is if I can cover my financial obligations to you.  Okay, okay, maybe it is your business to a small extent, but I don't like it and I can tell when you're judging the answer, so just fuck off already.

Fourthly ... when you claim that you want to welcome someone into your home, make sure there's room for them.  Move your crap out of the room you're renting (isn't that obvious?) and have some space in your home for them to put their stuff.  Lots of folks are moving with more than the clothes on their back.

Fifth ... don't expect anyone to maim or hobble their animal for you.  Thank God no one asked this of me, but some of the ads and contacts were implied.
"Is your cat declawed?" "No." "Ooooh."
"I don't mind a cat, but can it stay in your room?"  "She's shy, but I can't promise she'll never explore." "Humph."
Let me remind you again, it's a buyer's market - and I can get an apartment.  I'm looking for a room in a home for 2 reasons, to save money and to give myself a social contact in a new city.  But neither of those things are going to compel me to chop off my cat's claws at the first knuckle, torturing her unnecessarily, leaving her defenseless and maiming her.  Neither am I going to lock her up in a 9x9 room for the rest of her life.  She deserves freedom of movement within her domain, as we all do.

Sixth ... this is a combo.  If someone wants to see your place, call them back.  If you actually want to rent the joint, answer the phone.  If they are driving out of their way to meet with you for the specific purpose of renting a room, don't make them meet you somewhere else first unless there's a damned good reason.  Be willing to show a place if you want to rent it - ie don't tell a prospective renter that you "don't do looky-loos."  Don't be pushy, elitist or rude.

OTOH, I did meet some lovely folks.  One of the roommates at the first place I went wound up coming dancing with me that night.  And proceeded to share 1/4 of her life story with me.  There was the guy who was willing to paint the room any colour I wanted.  Isn't that sweet?  Then there was the guy who needed to move out because his mother was terminal - he was one of the friendliest and kindest strangers I met all weekend. He even offered to help me find a job where he works, whether I took the place or not.

So, with all of these caveats and nice folks and 400 miles worth of driving, where did I wind up?
Nowhere.  Yet. 


But I did find a really good space that I think I can live in.  I wanted to give the guy a minute to think it over, so I didn't call him today, but I do plan to ring him tomorrow and ask if he'll have me.  When all was said and done I went with the chill guy who was calm, friendly and normal on the phone.  He was the same in person.  I didn't smell any drama or creepiness in the air.

He offered not just a room, but also space for me to live in.  The rooms and house were clean without being sterile.  The neighborhood was beautiful.  The price was fair.  I can actually see myself living there.  I've spent more than a few minutes mentally arranging myself and my stuff in his house and it works.  It's not the perfect living situation.  I don't get my own unicorn and a thousand dollar stipend for waking up in the morning, but it's pretty damned good.

Tomorrow I'll make the call and see if he was as impressed with me as I was with him.  If not, I have someone else on backup who also has room for me and my stuff, but her neighbourhood consists of tract homes and the price isn't as good.  If both of them turn my ass down, I can spend another day up in Phoenix looking for perfection, but I think I'll just go with an apartment instead.  I'm used to my own company and know I won't be disappointed with it. 

Just finished: Heartless 
Just finished: Too Hot to Handle
Currently reading: E is For Evidence 
Currently reading: Forsaking All Others

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Seven things you don't (want to) know about me

The fabulous Erika nominated me for a blog award.  The Kreativ Blogger award.  Ergo I am to share seven things about myself and then pass the award along to seven other blogs.  Here goes:
1. I've lived in three countries and am from a small, sub-tropical island.  Most people are floored when I tell them that I live in the desert by choice.

2. I make the best tuna casserole you'll ever taste.  That's probably because I use 5 different sources of dairy and never skimp on fresh ingredients.  But it takes about 2 hours to make -- all of them standing at the stove -- so I don't bother with it too often.

3. My toes are the cutest things ever.  They are connected to equally cute feet, but it's really the toes that stand out.

4. I prefer TV to movies and radio to a music collection.

I feel like I should qualify this though.  I have crappy, crappy cable - the lowest level of service they will even bother to hook up.  (I get channels 3-16 and CNN, but six of those channels are in Spanish or are shopping networks so I only really get about eight stations.)  As a result,  I'm not addicted to TV.  I don't watch reality shows (except SYTYCD, BABY!) I just like the scripted, prime time stuff.  And I'm usually doing other things when the TV's on - commercials are the savior of any multi-tasker.  When I turn it off, it's all about the reading.

In my house I listen to my MP3 collection, but when I'm in the car it's all about radio.  It's one of the ways I hear new music.  On road trips though, it's back to the MP3s. 

5. I don't drink.  I tried to learn how, but it was a dismal failure.  Most of the time I just stick to water.

6. It takes over 2 hours (sometimes 3) to "do" my hair from start to finish ... and it usually lasts about four days when done.  My hair looks pretty damn fantastic when it's done, but I'm always so irritated that I have to plan more than 2 uninterrupted hours in my day to devote solely to hair, that I rarely bother to do it.  When my hair is not done, it looks like ass.
So, yes.  Most of the time my hair looks like ass.  (And not cute J.Lo booty ass either, but overweight-sweaty-plumber-crack ass.)

7. I have a hummingbird feeder on my patio and one hummingbird has set up camp in the pine tree about 10 feet away.  It spends all day defending the feeder from any interlopers.  And there are many interlopers.  I get a weird, sick satisfaction from watching them fight for the nectar I provide.   

I did a quick Google search for Kreative Blogger Award and got over seven million hits.  I'm sure as heck not gonna wade through them to find out where this thing started, but I'm happy to pass it along to a few sites that bring a smile to my face and mebbe a couple of random ones too.  Unfortunately, I only have a few followers, so I doubt they'll ever see it.  But never let it be said I didn't do my part in passing the luuuuuuuuuuuv along.

Hot Chicks Dig Smart Men

Margaret and Helen

The Intern

A Hook A Line and A Girl (random)

Infinite Learners (random)

Stonekettle Station

3 Twisted Sisters (random)

Just finished: Dangerous Lover
Just finished: To Kiss A Texan
Currently reading: Santa Olivia

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The End Of The Book

No, not mine.

I mean all the physical books out there. The fiction. The joyous, well-written novel that half of us are striving to create, and the other half are striving to find in our TBR.

I like reading paper books. I've mentioned it before. The e-reader has no allure to me, except for this month, when I'm moving, and contemplating putting more than half of the books I own on PBS so I won't have to pack them. (The other half is jealously guarded from the packing fiends who would have me donate them to a library.)

Anyway, I like reading paper, and as any author knows, books, stories have a rhythm. They have a pace of highs and lows they follow to keep the reader interested and on edge and turning the pages. Some talk about the W plot, some talk about The Black Moment, others merely refer to the near simultaneous need for the internal and external conflict to resolve themselves just before the book ends. It's all about keeping the reader so interested that they can't wait to find out what happens next.

Which brings me to my quibble about the ends of books. I don't know when it started. I don't know what marketing "guru" decided that this was the perfect way to waste more pages, but I have serious issues with the Promo Chapter. You know, that extra 10 or 20 pages at the END of the book I'm reading which trick me into thinking there's going to be another twist, another conflict, another obstacle thrown in the path of my hero and heroine before they get their Big Happy so I'm mentally (and physically) set up for one final gut-wrenching conflict and instead they try to shove another book down my throat while I'm wondering why I feel shafted.

There's all this talk about a demand for shorter word counts, and publishers finding ways to cut back. Well here's an idea... give those extra words back to the author whose name is emblazoned on the front of the book, or cut out those promo chapters altogether and save a tree or two.

I HATE the Promo Chapter.

It throws off my internal reader pacing. It leads me to believe there's more book coming, and then pulls out unexpectedly, leaving me very unsatisfied. (Yes, it's THAT frustrating.) Now, this may be the one advantage an e-reader has over paper... the digital reader doesn't have the visceral connection to the turning of the pages. To watching the thickness of product slowly but surely switch from the right hand side to the left. The heft and the weight of pages held back first by the thumb and then by the pinkie finger (or vise versa if you're a lefty). The satisfaction of another three / four / five hundred pages devoured, to then be discarded and replaced by a new, equally satisfying weight.

All of that is lost to the digital reader.

What is surely gained, however, is the joy of never again being the victim of the bait and switch set up by the Promo Chapter. No more putting the book down now because you don't have time to read 30 more pages, only to pick it up hours later and discover you had plenty of time to read the five pages that truly signaled the end of the book. No more bringing one book with you to finish in the doctor's office, only to discover nines pages later that you've been gypped and you should have brought the one you were just starting with you instead. No more teeth-grinding when you flip from page 343 to page 344 and see The End when you were expecting to see a new chapter heading instead.

I've read thousands of books in my life. I've read maybe a dozen promo chapters. Probably less. When I get to the end of the story I'm reading, I want that to be very near the end if the pages I'm holding in my hand. A page or two for the publisher to promote upcoming releases, a few of the authors previous or future releases complete with back-cover blurb . . . that's really all that should be back there. A chapter of a story I didn't purchase and can't finish even if I do start reading it is not only wasteful, it's irritating.

When you've set me up (by the sheer volume of pages left to turn) for more story and then leave me hanging, I get pissed. So pissed that I am not going to look favourably upon anything you try and sell me. That's right. I'm already going into it with a bad attitude. Such a bad attitude that 99% of the time I don't even read it at all. In fact, I wish I could rip out those cockteasing pages from the back of the book and use them to line the litterbox. I just have too much respect for the spine of the book to do so.

Just finished: To Have & To Hold
Currently reading: Wolf Tales V
Currently reading: Santa Olivia