Monday, August 26, 2013

Directional Challenges: I Haz Them!

I often say that one of the best things about having zero sense of direction (and not much more talent when it comes to landmarks) is that every mountain bike ride is a new trail, even at the park five minutes from our house. (Which, fortunately, is on a peninsula, so I can't get too lost.)

It’s a running joke that when I say something like “Let’s go get ice cream!” and point, I’m always pointing in the opposite direction to where I want to be. I’m also uniformly wrong when I stop, pick which direction I think is right, then point the other way. Let’s just say, my Tom-Tom (a gift from a treasured friend after hearing my story about getting from CT to NJ via the Bronx when I wandered off Rt. 95) is my friend.

Anyway, I bring this up because over the weekend, Arizona and I took the ferry over to the island where a chunk of his family resides. Unlike our usual visits, though, we had plans outside his normal stomping grounds. And when I looked at the directions, picked the first highway, and said, “Can you get us to Rt. 27 from here?” it turned out that he couldn’t.

Now, this is the guy who, on the ferry ride over, not only identified every hazard buoy by what it signified (big rock, wreck, or otherwise), he also listed what fish can be caught there at different times of the year, and usually had a story to go with. And he’s the guy who, when we’re out biking, can always point and say, “We want to be over there,” and lead the way with 100% accuracy. So it surprised me that he didn’t have a road map in his head.

Thinking about it, though, I realized that when he was living there, most of his navigating got done on the water or in the small town near his family. He could no doubt tell me the location of every bait store, breakfast-sandwich place, and marina within a ten-mile radius, if not more, because those are the things that mattered.

It's kind of like how I tend to give directions like “turn at the red barn with the white fence with the pretty pinto grazing out front.” Or how in high school, most of my crowd gave directions by the number of packies (New-England slang for liquor store) you would pass. Let’s not even talk about my childhood riding coach, who liked to say stuff like, “Take a left where the Davidson's blue barn used to be.”

So what about you? Are you directionally challenged, or are you one of those magical (to me, at any rate) people who always knows where they are and how to get where they want to be? Do you give directions by the third Dunkin’ Donuts on the left, by craft stores, or ?? Inquiring minds want to know!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Behind the Blue Door

You know how home-improvement project start out manageable and amoeba out from there? Yeah. It was like that.

To set the scene, I've done several large science editing projects over the past month or so (my side job), and Arizona, bless him, said, "You've been working your butt off. You should get yourself a present." 

Having just bought myself a couple of pretty mountain biking shirts, and being okay in the clothing and computer department, I said, "How about we replace the front door?" (Our living room doesn't have a ton of natural light, so I want to replace the solid door with something brighter.)

So off we traipsed to the store ... only to discover that they strongly recommend not just replacing the door itself, but doing the whole rip-out-reframe thing, which was *way* more than we had in mind. Sigh. "Okay," I said. "Let's get some paint. If I can't replace it, at least I can make it less ugly. Right?" 

In the paint aisle, we considered going with green, just so the directions to our house can include "behind the green door" (because both of our humor levels tend towards "sixteen year old boy," yanno--Google at your own risk), but settled on a pretty blue. Then, since we've have "redo the locks" on the list since we moved in over a year ago, we headed for the lock aisle. Ninety minutes and three stores later, we've got what we want.

Now, remember, my present to myself was going to be sticking a pretty new door right where the old one used to be. Oh, and there was supposed to be more light involved. But painting can be fun, too. At least that was what I kept telling myself.

Imagine, if you will, three entry doors in a pretty tan house with white trim. Got it? Now slap a layer of eggplant-hued latex paint on them (probably from the "Oops" rack of five-dollar specials), and wait a year for it to start bubbling and flaking off. Yeah. Leprous eggplant doors. I has them. I also had the vague idea that since a quarter or so of the paint was already falling off, it would be simple to remove the rest.

Er. Not so much. Turned out the stuff that's stuck on was really *stuck*, and my sander wasn't smoothing it down the way I wanted. 

Okay, off to store number four, where we bought two different kinds of stripper and discussed stopping at the local gentleman's club on the way home to see if any of the ladies would like to help us out, so we'd have strippers doing our stripping (see above, re: sixteen year old boys). And then it was back home for several hours worth of manual labor, whereupon I (having not eaten since breakfast) started feeling very sorry for myself because this was supposed to be a *reward*, darn it, not more work!

Arizona wisely took me out for sushi and a big glass of wine at this point.

The upshot? I currently a pristinely stripped door downstairs wearing one layer of blue, some white trim and beautifully caulked edges. Did I mention that this isn't even the front door? I started with one of the other doors. But that's okay because I think I have a lead on a replacement front door that's all wood, so we can trim it to fit the existing jamb (and then sand, paint, etc.). 

I'm betting it'll be two, maybe three weeks and forty-some man hours before all three doors are pretty and blue. All because my hubby is a sweetheart and told me I should buy myself a present.

(Let's see if he ever does that again!)

So that's the story of my weekend, and the project that Got Out Of Hand. What do you guys say? Have you been overtaken recently by a project that should have been simple? 

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Great Bus Trip Reunion (aka FictionFest 2013)

Imagine, if you will, a bus full of authors driving from town to town, stopping morning, noon and night to sign books for their fans. 

If you were filling this bus and it was coming to your town, who would be on it? If your list includes the likes of Angela Knight, Gena Showalter, Kristan Higgins, Kresley Cole, Allison Brennan, Sherry Thomas, Elizabeth Hoyt, Jade Lee and Roxanne St. Claire (and more!), then welcome to my world, back in 2008. 

To say that it was a memorable week would be the understatement of the decade. To describe the oodles of books we signed would be ridiculous. To mention that there was talk about hopping across the Canadian border one night, where ladies' night promises full male nudity, might be telling tales out of class (what happens on the bus stays on the bus?). But to say that some of the friendships forged there have stuck would be the absolute truth. 

Why, might you ask, am I bringing up a bus trip from five years ago? Well, because in just over a month, Kristan Higgins, Roxanne St. Claire and I will be reuniting at CTRWA's Fiction Fest, and I can't wait!!

Here are the deets:

When? Saturday, September 21, 2013
Where? Beautiful Mystic, Connecticut, which is totally worth visiting for the aquarium, maritime museum, downtown shopping, nearby vineyards, and all sorts of other cool stuff.

Want more? 

The Connecticut Romance Writers Fiction Fest 2013 will be held on Saturday, September 21, 2013. The keynote speaker this year is 6-time RITA Nominee, Winner, and NY Times Bestselling Author, Roxanne St. Claire.  We’ll also be welcoming Jim Azevedo from Smashwords for a double session workshop, and life coach/organizer Lisa Lelas.
The all-day conference will be held at the luxurious Hilton Hotel in Mystic, CT.  Just tell them you are with the CT Romance Writers (or give them the code “CRWA”), and you will receive the discount room rate of $169.
Fiction writers of all genres, but especially romance writers, are welcome.  Once again, the conference will feature workshops on craft, industry, and the writer’s life. We will have an exciting raffle, an editor/agent hot-seat luncheon (where THEY get to answer YOUR questions), and a few surprises. In addition, editors and agents will be available for pitch appointments. Stay tuned for the workshop schedule and complete list of agents and editors.  This conference drew 160 participants last year, so be sure to register early to reserve your spot!

Mary Sue Seymour, The Seymour Agency
Emmanuelle Morgen, Stonesong Literary Agency
Stephany Evans, Fine Print Literary Management
Rachael Dugas, Talcott Notch Literary Services
Chelsey Emmelhainz (Avon Harper Collins)
Susan Litman (Harlequin) (Can take pitches for all lines)
Debby Gilbert (Soul Mate)
Katherine Pelz (Berkley)

Registration rates are as follows (includes registration, breakfast, and lunch):
CTRWA/CORW/Colony Romance Writer Members: $135
Non-members: $155
New Member Special: $160 (includes member rate registration, plus discounted membership to CTRWA!)

(Copied from the CTRWA Fiction Fest web page. Click for more, and to register!)

For now, though, let's think about that fantasy bus tour that's coming to your town. Who are you going to put on the bus, and why?

Monday, August 5, 2013

Shark Jumping: Advanced Division

One of my favorite moments of a recent big romance writers’ convention was hearing an author passionately declaim: “But, sweetheart, I never promised you a ménage!”

This was in reference to a reviewer complaining of the lack, despite there being no mention of such a scene anywhere in the material promoting the story. It made me laugh (the author said it in good fun), but I also think it’s an excellent example of the expectations that a reader (or TV viewer) brings to the table, and how the fun can be shaken out of things when the subject matter takes a left-hand turn.

I remember once picking up what I thought (from the cover and back blurb) was a small-town contemporary romance, only to discover that it was a small-town contemporary romance with lots of paranormal elements. Now, I don’t have anything against paranormal romance (far from it!), but I was in the mood for warm fuzzies, not demons, so I set the book aside. Later, when I picked it up again, knowing what to expect, I enjoyed it just fine.

Or, going back a bit, there was the time I decided to go see a movie by myself. I was having an unusually bad week among a whole bunch of them, and wanted a pick-me-up. So, based on the previews and theater posters, which were heavy on the pink and rom-com tropes, I went to see My Best Friend’s Wedding. Which, for the record, is heavy on the angst and chest beating, and doesn’t have the HEA I was looking for. Was it a good movie? Maybe. But it sure wasn’t what I needed that day.

So what, you might ask, does this have to do with shark jumping? Well, there’s the infamous episode of Happy Days, in which the Fonz actually does (or tries to?) jump his motorcycle water ski jump (thanks to frykitty for the correction!) over a shark tank, and in the process rather than reviving the franchise, spawns the term “jumping the shark” in reference to the moment when something that was once great begins (or accelerates) its decline. (It’s thanks to Arizona that I know this little tidbit, as I had always thought it was strictly a metaphor. I had no idea someone actually had jumped a shark until he clued me in.)

And then there’s last night … and Discovery Channel’s Megalodon. Blech.

Arizona adores Shark Week. He was also dinosaur-crazy as a kid, and would’ve made an awesome paleontologist. I’m more of a whales-and-dolphins person, but I love a well-done documentary. So we were looking forward to Shark Week 2013 kicking off with a two-hour documentary on shark fossils.

Only it wasn’t. It was a scripted, awkward mockumentary that tried to “prove” that Megalodons still exist today, and it didn’t have nearly enough disclaimers for my taste.

Why, you might ask, would a lover of Sharknado and MegaPirhana object to this? For the simple reason that those other schlock-fests are on the SyFy channel and don’t pretend to be something they’re not. And they’re not used to kick off a week of documentaries. (And, yes, some of those documentaries are rather lacking in scientific rigor, but that's a subject for another day...)

Maybe I was tired, maybe I was hormonal, maybe I just wasn’t in the mood, but I got really annoyed with Discovery Channel for breaking it’s (implicit) promise to me, just as My Best Friend’s Wedding had failed to be a chick flick, and that book I was talking about turned out to be a stealth paranormal. Will I watch the rest of Shark Week? Yes, though mostly because Arizona will want to. But I’ll definitely be doing a MST3000 on the reenactments and calling “bull” on the questionable science more than I usually do.

How about you? Shark Week or no Shark Week? Have you suffered from an entertainment bait-and-switch lately? How did you recover?