Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Thirty Two Years

That's how long the fella and I have been married. I have trouble remembering the exact number from time to time, actually--that's what age does to one, after all--and then I have to Do Math to calculate it. But that's the number. 32.

We delayed celebrating on our actual anniversary, Thursday, and went to church band practice instead. New songs every week can be a lot to learn. Friday, there was a faculty awards banquet the fella had to go to, and of course, I dressed up and went along. Stayed after and had a giant margarita while chatting with various faculty and spouses. And then, Saturday, we made reservations at one of the best restaurants on the island. I'd been wanting to go there for a while, so at last, we did. They do seafood with a Central American flair...and yes, you know I'm going to share our menu with you.

I like calamari, at least the fried appetizer kind. I even like the ones that have all their little tentacles. I have never had calamari flavored like this, though. It was delicious, fried up like those other sorts, but dressed with sweet banana peppers and caramelized onions and red bell peppers...pretty sure they were cooked in olive oil, and then all mixed up together in a sweet/hot/crunchy/calamari-tasting deliciousness. Oh, and they also serve--like you get tostadas with salsa at a good Mexican restaurant--this place serves plaintain chips with salsa and a green sauce--I think they called it chimichurri. The salsa was milder, with other flavors than in a Mexican salsa casera. Anyway, very good.

We had what one of the other waiters described as a signature dish of the restaurant. Red snapper with a plaintain crust served with raspberry chipotle sauce and Parmesan scalloped potatoes. The plaintains weren't sweet and only faintly banana-y. Nice and crunchy, and wonderful with the sweet-hot of the sauce. Not very hot, just ... right. And then we succumbed to dessert. I had a pecan ball, which is a giant scoop of ice cream coated in pecans (I thought it would be a little smaller) drizzled with butterscotch. They didn't...quite...have to bring out the wheelbarrow to roll us out of the restaurant. It is really a treat to live where there are so many wonderful places to eat. We still haven't made our way through all of them...

And then we went home to watch Charlie Wilson's War, and enjoyed lying around like overfed slugs to watch it. And that was our anniversary celebration.

Oh. And okay, let's just confess my native dorkiness here. I dropped, dribbled and/or dripped every single course on myself, beginning with a banana pepper slice, continuing through a piece of Caesar salad dressing-coated Romaine, to a droplet of chipotle sauce and ending with a major dribble of ice cream and butterscotch, right down the front of my red blouse. Sigh. Can't say I didn't enjoy my food...and I really tried hard not to wear it too...but, well, somehow these things always seem to happen to me. It has become a family joke. Years and years ago. Sigh.

Beach Report: I am now a seagull voyeur. I caught a pair of seagulls Doing It, and did not look away and give them privacy. I figured if they were going to Do It right there on the public beach with a dozen other seagulls watching, they probably got off on exhibitionism.

The male was standing on top of the female, who looked rather long-suffering, squawking like a little boy doing sound-effects for a slow machine gun, sort of an ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah. In seagull voice, of course. And in perfect rhythm, every dozen ah-ahs or so, the female would give off a little high-pitched squeal while he wriggled his butt against hers. The squeal was the only thing that convinced me she wasn't totally bored by the whole affaire.

Now I have to wonder where the seagulls nest. Probably over in the marshes on the bay side of the island. It's sure not safe to build a nest on the beach with all the beachgoers exploring.

And now I must add seagull porn to my oeuvre. Ah well. This, I think adds either to my geekiness or my nerdyness quotient. Nerdyness, I think. Geeks tend to be monomaniacs. Nerds want to know everything about everything, and since birds are not my only fascination... Yep. I'm a nerd.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Beach Reports begin again

Not that they'll be any better than sporadic until I get my time organized a little better. But I did get out to walk on the beach yesterday. It was in the evening, so quite a few people were out still enjoying the day. I found my new shorts I bought for my friend's visit that I didn't get to wear because a cold front blew in and we had to wear jackets to walk on the beach. I found my flip-flops. And I drove to the beach and Walked.

The water is WARM! YAY!!! At last. It's not bathwater warm like it will be in September, but it's warm enough for a pleasant swim, if the sun's out and the wind's not blowing too hard. I admit it. I'm a wimp when it comes to swimming water temperature. It comes from living in Texas so many years. If it's not at LEAST 90 degrees (32+ C) air temp, I'm not going in, and 95 F (35C) is better. Either that, or the water had better be warm. I've been swimming in hot springs pools when the air was "brisk" and that was acceptable. But I don't like to be cold when I'm wet. So, now that the water's reaching the 70 F (21 C) range, and the air's pretty consistently close to 80 F (26.6 C), I ought to be able to go out one day soon and enjoy a little wave action in the water.

The thing I like best about the Gulf coast surf is that there isn't much of it. We just don't get the big surfing waves that they get on the Pacific coast. Have I said this before here? I just really like the fact that the surf doesn't beat you to death, and that it's easy to go out past the surf, where the water is still just chest deep, and let the non-breaking waves just rock you. It's infinitely relaxing to touch sand between the waves, then ride gently over them as they come rolling in to break (not too violently) twenty or so yards farther in toward shore. Soon. Maybe this weekend. (Though I have plans--Saltgrass Potters spring art show and sale, and maybe the garden club plant sale over in Bayou Vista.) (And getting the car washed. I did get the license plate and its holder put back on my car. Had a bit of a close encounter with a large trailer hitch in the parking lot at Fish Tales... But the beast (aka, my vehicle) is still filthy.)

About the beach--okay, the water was warm. Swimmers were out. Not much seaweed, and it was mostly the little crinkly stuff. No jellyfish yesterday. Lots of shells, and I even found half a sand dollar. First hint of a sand dollar I've seen in the 7 or 8 months I've been here. So I took it.

Today is our 32nd anniversary, and the fella was, as usual, up to par. I received a lovely arrangement of yellow roses (he knows I like other colors better than red) and some very interesting purple bud-like flower before I had to leave for the paper. (Where I am currently sloughing off by writing this blog post.) I think we're going to celebrate Saturday with dinner out, and Charlie Wilson's War at home. We meant to go see it in the theater, and never did make it, and I don't think there's anything out now that we really want to go see. I will try and remember to report back in... TRY.

Think I'm through the "going back to fix" pages in the writing, and can start forging ahead with new stuff. If only I can remember where I thought I was going from here... Hmmm. Well, I can write it, and then if I have to, fix it.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

I Haz Furnishings

I mentioned, in my only blog last week (because I was really, really tired) that I traveled up to the Panhandle to supervising the packing and loading of the vast majority of our furniture so we could bring it to the Island where we now live. It is a VERY long way from the Texas coast to the panhandle and back again. Took a long time to drive it.

But we did--took out most of a week with no writing or even thinking about the book--and now all our stuff is Here, and I have to figure out where to put it. ACK!

The spouse is laying claim to the boy's book space, so now I have nowhere to put the boy's books.

There is Stuff all along one side of the kitchen counter, but we do have all the boxes out of the kitchen now. They are all in the den. Where we do a lot of our living.

I told the packers NOT to pack ANYTHING on the bed we weren't moving--and I carefully put my new teddy bear (because the stuffed whale I had been sleeping with had lost all the felt on his mouth in the past five years of life with me) in the middle of the bed so he wouldn't get packed...

And they carefully packed not only Marvin the Bear, but the one red throw pillow I'd deliberately put in the middle of all the gold matchy-matchy "set" pillows to make it not quite so matchy-matchy. I still have not found Marvin. But I did find Balou the bear (yes, the one from Disney's Jungle Book) so all is not lost. I have a bear to sleep with. (Some people hug pillows. I find bears (or killer whales) much more amenable for sleeping.)

So now, we have a little furniture left in the house we still own (I do miss that house...) to camp out in when we go up that way, instead of camping out here where we spend most of our time. The fella is Very Happy to have his recliner back.

I have re-discovered that I really cannot do Anything before I start writing in the morning. I tried to empty a box yesterday, and discovered books. They were books I'd had on my keeper shelf--and I couldn't remember if I still wanted to keep them. So I opened one of them to skim, and wound up spending the rest of the morning reading them. My mother says I just have no will power. And yes, this is true. Hence, the need to start writing first, before doing other stuff that will suck me into the Not Writing.

I can't read e-mails either. Or look stuff up on the internet. Nor should I hunt for stuff in research books, though I'm a little better about stopping that and getting back into the writing. I can, however, clean the kitchen, or bathrooms, or do laundry, or any of a hundred other household tasks, because Those Things aren't Fun. (Had to pick up a dead roach this a.m. Ick.) I sorta have to make myself to those things before writing, because they are SO not fun. I have to research house cleaning services on the island...

That said, I have had to go back and do a LOT of tweaking, because I wrote stuff before I figured out how the process worked of transferring a murder investigation from the Ordinary Police to the Magic Police, and because I realized my hero would rather do pretty much anything--except let a murderer get away--before asking his father for assistance. So I had to go back and make everything make sense.

I know there are many, many people who claim that one should Just Write the first draft, and go back and fix things After the whole draft is finished. And to a certain extent, I do that.

"But--But---" you are saying, "But you just Said you had to go back and tweak. That's not writing straight through."

No, it isn't. Because 1. I am NOT a multiple draft writer. I Hate writing the same stuff again and again and again. By the time I write stuff out in longhand, and then put it in the computer, it's pretty clean. Rarely do I add things--like emotion or description--when I type story in. Mostly, I cut stuff out. That's not the same as "layering" in things on subsequent drafts. And 2. I'm a linear writer. Not a plotter, not a pantser. I have to write from beginning to end, and I build on what I've written before. So if my hero's not motivated correctly--if he tells the heroine to do the right thing for the wrong reason, then I really can't keep going. Or if I have things out of order, I can't keep going.

That was part of my problem this time. I had to move some things later, and bring some things earlier, and if I don't do it NOW, when I know how things have to work, I'm not going to remember what I intended/needed to do when I come back to it later, no matter how many notes I write to myself. It's just too big a problem to save till later.

I realized a while ago that I'm having problems because I'm still figuring out how the magic works. I'm also having to figure out how magic fits into Victorian society...and it keeps slowing me up. The story is working, but it's just coming slow because I keep having to figure stuff out. But it IS coming. (cracking whip.)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

My Dad is in the movies

So. I've been away. I'm home now, and my furniture has arrived. I have a real desk now. I had to disconnect my internet to get the desk into the room, and am having trouble getting it back, but that's not what this blog is about. See, my dad is gonna be in the movies.

On my way to the panhandle to supervise the packing and loading of all our stuff (of which we have WAY too much), I drove through Smithville to check on the parents. They've been in their house three weeks now, and the remodel of their demolished bathroom is on track. Mama called me one day to tell me they'd picked out tile for the bathroom, but she couldn't remember what it looked like. It looks nice.

I went with them to the county courthouse so they could register to vote at their new address--and we got horribly lost, because we turned left rather than right in downtown Bastrop--and we went to look at carpet to replace the stained carpet they have now. And then, when we got home, Mama took a call.

Seems that the movie that is currently filming in Smithville, starring Brad and Angelina, wanted Daddy to come for a wardrobe fitting.

When he came back in the house from wherever he'd been, he protested that he hadn't volunteered to be in any movie, and the brother-in-law said "Sure, you did. Don't you remember? At the parade, when you held up that poster board with your name and phone number on it and they took your picture?" Daddy remembered that.

So he went in to get fitted for their wardrobe, and went back the next day to be in their movie. I, unfortunately, had to leave before he went to wardrobe--but it's not like they'd've let me hang around anyway.

When I asked him how it went, he said he got pretty hot walking up and down the street in a wool suit. He kept forgetting what he was supposed to do, and asking the other old men if they could remember. He was one of the "men who tip their hats." He thought they finally put him out of the way so he couldn't mess anything up if he forgot, but then again, if everybody is just milling around in the street, it's hard to mess up milling... He got a free haircut (he was needing one) and a free meal, and a few bucks.

I asked if he saw anybody famous, any of the stars, and he thought one of the red-haired ladies might have been somebody. But if Brad Pitt was there, he couldn't tell it.

So that's my dad's movie-making adventure. He's not real sure he'd do it again, because he got awfully hot and tired, but he's glad he did it once. And when the Brangelina movie "Tree of Life" comes out, we'll all have to go and watch for Daddy's hat tipping.

I'll post a picture of Daddy when the opening comes, so you'll know who to look for. ;)

Monday, April 07, 2008

Writer's Weekend

I had a wonderful weekend. A Writer's Weekend.

My best friend--the one I went to New Mexico and Arizona on a research trip with a couple of years ago--came down to the island on Friday with her husband, because she didn't want to drive through the big-city traffic by herself. My fella was out of town on business, but her guy did very well staying out of the way. ;)

I took them out to lunch at my favorite "local's hot-spot", and then we went downtown to see the hawk show they were having for FeatherFest. (This bird is actually a Sea Eagle, and he's checking us out.) After the hawks and a walk around town to look in a few shops, we had ice cream at the son's favorite ice cream parlor. (Mine, too. But I won't let myself go there unless we have company in town.) We drove around the historical district a little bit, and then headed back to the house for a little while.

B and I (we sign our e-mails by initials only--I think I started it because I'm bone-lazy, but our little group all started doing it, since we all have names with different initials--and now we call each other by our initials) had exchanged a few pages for critique, so we went out on the back covered patio to go over our pages, and while we were out there, it rained. We were under the roof, so we didn't get wet, but after an hour or so, it started getting cold and we went in. Had supper at Tortuga's Mexican Restaurant and watched the wind blow the palmettos around. Then we went back home again and plotted a book for B.

She brought her sticky notes and her big foamcore plotting board and her tape recorder (which kept stopping intermittently unless she smacked it--we decided it had become masochistic...) and a spiral notebook and her AlphaSmart. I never realized just how much equipment was necessary for plotting a story. ;) She had a huge cowboy boot box for the sticky notes, because the first time we tried plotting with sticky notes, we kept saying things like "We need more colors--we need a color for the villain, and for the hero's internal conflict, and for the suspense subplot, and for--" So every time she sees sticky notes in the store, she checks to see if they're a color she doesn't have already. I think she has enough sticky notes to last the rest of her life.

By this time, we were really tired, so we went to bed. Her fella had crashed a while back--the driving stress tuckered him out.

Saturday, we got up, drove to McDonald's for some breakfast take-out, and after we ate it, we plotted a book for me. Of course, I have more books plotted than I have time to write, and am having to take a week off working on Old Spirits to drive back to the panhandle this week and supervise the moving of the rest of the furniture, so I'm going to be writing even less (which upsets me no end), but we plotted yet another book for me. While we were plotting, her hubby went out walking down the seawall. He went into every souvenir shop along the way, and wound up walking all the way to 6th Street. Which is almost 5 miles from our street. And then he had to walk back. We'd have come to get him if he'd called, but he never did...

B and I went out and walked a couple of miles on the beach-or maybe only one. I was too busy talking and looking at all the birds to pay attention. I even saw some terns. We did walk out on one of the jetties--one with a paved walking path. It was quite chilly, or we might have gone walking earlier, but we wanted to wait for it to warm up. And we still wore out windbreakers to go walking. We weren't really hungry, so we went back to the house and had peanut butter cheese crackers and watched movies, then went out to one of the better seafood houses on the island for supper. (Had the charcoal grilled/fried shrimp combo--very good.) The man in the house was snoring by 10 p.m., because of his 10-mile hike...

Sunday, we got up and did speed-writing drills. We wrote 10 opening sentences. Not opening sentences to anything in particular, just opening sentences. Then we switched pages, and drew numbers, and wrote scenes to go with the opening sentence that matched that number. I got one that said, "Oh, honey, with a package like that, I'll do ya for free." (B is a stinker, because she KNEW I would have to write from her sentences, and put that one in just so I'd have to write something beginning with that... :P) It was a lot of fun, and we laughed a lot.

After that, I had mentioned a free reception and tours of one of the big mansion museums on the island, so we went to that--looked at all the stuff on display in the basement, and went upstairs to look at the living area and take pictures on the spiffy-cool front porch and such. (This is B and her fella on one end of the porch--yes, it's a round gazebo-y area.) Then we went to eat at a Louisiana-style seafood place downtown, and look at the stores on that end of the street. And then, alas, it was time to say goodbye.

Most of the time, there are at least three of us on our Writers' Weekends, but our third couldn't get away this time. But since, despite his ten-mile hike and aching legs, her husband had a good time on the island, I don't think I'll have a lot of trouble convincing them to come back. Maybe if my fella's here next time, the guys can go fishing. I know mine likes to fish, and I think hers does too... We didn't even ride the ferry or go out to the state park. And maybe our third can come next time too... Can't wait.

Now I have to just get busy writing Old Spirits, so I can write another couple chapters of Thunder, and get a little farther toward finishing it, and then I can write Time Catch, and then I can write the third, still-nameless blood-magic universe book, and then I can write this book we just plotted. Sometime in 2010, maybe???

Tuesday, April 01, 2008


I don't know if I've mentioned it here before, but I usually don't get writer's block. I'm not going to say I never get it, because sure as shooting, I'll come down with a raging case next blink of my eyes, but I can't remember having a lot of trouble writing, except once when I got into a knock-down drag-out argument with my hero who refused to do something until I pointed out to him the situation, and he finally admitted that he probably would do what I wanted him to do--but he'd be real upset with himself the next day.

There you go--I'm queen of the run-on sentence. Anyway, like I said, I don't usually just come to a complete and grinding halt and find myself unable to write another word. I get the stupids. That's where every word that flows out of the pen is just ... stupid. The narrative is stupid. The dialog is stupid, the characters are Stupid and everything is just Stupid, STUPID, STUPID! However, this week--okay, today--it's been rough going. I kept having to stop to figure stuff out.

It wasn't so much that I had to stop for research, though I did need to be sure that people have to go before a magistrate to have a bail set, and that solicitors are the ones who accompany someone for bail, in England. But I could have fudged that. Left gaps till I had time to do more thorough research. (Besides, I have a source in the newsroom--Ian the Brit answers all kinds of questions willingly for me.)(And I'm going to have to break down and get a historical map of London. Sigh.)

Where I really ran into problems was when I realized I didn't know exactly how the magic worked that I was using. I hadn't thought things through, and I needed to. I needed to know how magicians interacted with the spirits they call, and what the morality of the magic was. That stuff was important. And I figured out that conjury was as inherently moral as sorcery, in my universe. I even had to understand the rules for heaven and hell.

I still don't know everything about how this magic works. I need to look up some of the stuff I figured out for the previous book, but took out of the pages. I can't find it in notes or deleted materials--I may not have typed it into the computer. In which case, I KNOW it's in the first draft tucked away in its 3-ring binder...somewhere. I don't think I've moved the binders yet. In which case, they'll get moved down here in the next couple of weeks, when we move all our furniture to the island. But it might be here...

Anyway, it's frustrating when I have to stop and work out stuff I really should have worked out earlier--but I sorta thought I already had. I mean, I wrote a whole book set in this universe. It just didn't occur to me that I'd be writing about a different kind of magic in more detail than I had in the previous book. And honestly, even if I had worked out stuff about conjury ahead of time, I would still be discovering things about it as I write. I never know all the secrets till I get there. Sometimes, I do make them up. But sometimes, they just sort of...come.

All kinds of things bubble up out of that swamp, and I never know what it will be next.

Manticores have made a recent appearance...

Oh! AND, I have ridden my new red Schwinn bicycle all the way to 39th Street today!! That is 53rd Street to 39th Street, plus the two blocks from the subdivision--and back again. Farther than I've been able to take myself before. My knees may whine for the next few days, but I got past 45th Street, which means I rode more than 2 miles.