Open Letter to New York City Denizens

So, we took a trip to New York this past weekend.  Our main goal was to see PIPPIN (comments to follow in a later post), and we took in ALL THE WAY (a play about LBJ, starring Bryan Cranston — comments to follow in that same later post).  The trip started out beautifully, with a whole slew of New Yorkers being fun and inviting and just about the opposite of every stereotype of New Yorkers.  (I’m talking about the guy at the fast food counter who made me laugh, and the guy in line at TKTS who joked that he was buying up the last 60 tickets for GLASS MENAGERIE and giving them away to people who could answer Tennessee Williams trivia (only to discover that I stage managed a Williams play and knew more trivia than he’d bargained for), and the dozens and dozens of people who seemed to be in just a good mood, making our trip fun.)

And then a Bad Thing happened.

We were heading for dinner at Katz’s Deli, walking from the closest subway station, and we hit a patch of black ice, out of nowhere, in the middle of a block that had been perfectly clear at the corner.  I was just about to tell Mark to be careful, when I saw him fall.  His feet swept out from under him, his back hit, and then his head smashed — hard — against the sidewalk.  I yelled for someone to call 911, and the closest two people stopped, but they were from out of the country and didn’t have working cell phones.  The third closest guy stopped, and called.  I thought at first Mark was having a seizure, but then I (slowly) realized he was just trying to breathe.

In the midst of my panic, and waiting, waiting, waiting (it seemed like forever, but was probably 10 minutes), Cell Phone Man stayed with me.  And dozens of people who walked (skated!) by stopped.  People offered to help, offered to call, offered to do anything they could.

When the EMTs arrived, they took a quick assessment, attaching a cervical collar and getting Mark on a back board.  (Their treatment was interrupted by two other people slipping on another section of the same ice — those people weren’t injured, just shocked.)  It took me and a helpful bystander to brace the gurney for the EMTs to shift Mark onto the device, and then the EMTs needed to “sled” the gurney down the ice before they could raise it.

Mark was conscious, but somewhat disoriented, and the EMTs recommended that we go to Bellevue, because it’s the local trauma center.  We agreed, and they took us there.  Along the way, Mark’s memory continued to clear (although he *still* doesn’t remember falling.)  At Bellevue, the EMT walked us through the triage process, and we only waited about five minutes before a doctor came by for a preliminary exam.  He strongly suggested a CT scan, which we agreed to.

We waited an hour for the exam (having been moved from our original emergency room bay, after they brought in an agitated, aggressive man who seemed to be drunk or high — there were police in the emergency room for another case, and it seemed the hospital workers wanted Mr. Agitated near the cops).  Ultimately, the scan results came back, showing no bleeding in the brain (YAYYYYY!).  We talked to the doctor one last time, were told that the dizziness and headache and memory problems could last for days, weeks, or months, and Mark was discharged.

Everyone at the hospital was wonderful.  Nurses kept us informed and answered questions about timing and waits with patience and accuracy.  The doctor was reassuring and kind.  The man who handled discharge patiently explained where I could get food (it was nearly 9:00 when they took Mark to the scan, and I’d only had a bowl of soup for lunch hours ago….) even though he must give those directions dozens of times a day.

The next day (yesterday), we headed down to Penn Station, hoping to change our tickets to an earlier train.  The gate agent was wonderful, slipping us onto a virtually sold out Acela (a faster, more comfortable train than the regular, with priority on the rails, in case of backups), for only the difference in ticket price.  A Red Cap escorted us to the train for pre-boarding, so that we didn’t have to deal with the scrum that always forms, as people with reserved tickets jostle for seats as if it’s the last train leaving Saigon.  (Okay, *trains* didn’t leave Saigon, but you know what I mean…)

In the end, we got home about six hours earlier than we would have.  Mark is sore from the fall, but the bump on his head isn’t as troublesome today.  He’s still getting dizzy if he moves too fast or leans over, but he’s feeling much less foggy.

And I’m left more than a bit unnerved about how bad it could have been.  And so grateful for so many people who stopped to help strangers.  And wishing there was some way that I could thank everyone involved.

And thinking I’ll only try to go to Katz’s in the summer from now on…

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Retreating from Retreats

Wow.  I hardly recognize my office.  My writing desk.  My cat-trap blanket…

What?  You don’t have a cat-trap blanket?  It’s a crucial tool in my writing arsenal — a lap blanket knit out of Heavenly yarn.  when Poppy decides she needs to sit on my keyboard, to supervise my work, I lure her onto my lap with the cat-trap blanket.  She makes bread, and I get work done.

So, I’ve returned from my back-to-back retreats.

For those playing along at home, I spent five days on my first retreat.  I left you some clues along the way, but no one figured out where I was — Orlando, Florida, staying at the Disney Yacht Club Resort.  (The giraffes were viewed from a “Sunset Savannah” room at Disney’s Wild Animal Kingdom Lodge.  The Eiffel Tower was viewed from the edge of the EPCOT park.)

While in Orlando, I ate my body weight in whole-grain croissants, and I drank a tanker full of tea (with coffee for those couple of mornings when I was nearly too exhausted to write.)  I worked during the days, then spent the evenings with my best friend.  We stayed up talking *way* too late most evenings.

I rewarded myself with the Cirque de Soleil show, La Nouba, and it was magical.  I despise the regular circus, with its animals and noise, but I love, love, love these shows that walk on the edge of Magritte.  They trigger a million writing ideas, and all the while I’m simply astonished by what some human bodies can do.

I came home from Orlando and spent about 24 hours with husband and cats before heading off to my “local” writers retreat, a couple of hours north of here, in Maryland.  This is a group of four other authors; we get together a couple of times a year.  The stay isn’t nearly as productive (there’s only one full day, with people arriving and leaving on Friday and Sunday), but it’s always fun to check in on everyone else’s careers, and to get *some* heavy lifting done.

So, my total, for the week of retreating:  Approximately 25,000 words drafted, and approximately 38,000 words edited.  Today, I’ll wrap up THE VERY FIRST TIME (the third of the Diamond Brides books.)  I’m pleased!  And eager to move on to the fourth book!

So?  What did I miss while I was out of touch?  What’s new with you?

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Back From the Beach

Hi, honey!  I’m home!

I’m back from a lovely four-day trip to the Outer Banks, where I stayed in a relative’s amazing beach house…  Highlights of the trip:

  • Reading.  And reading some more.  And doing a lot more reading.  And then some.
  • Mini-golf, at the fourth place we stopped at.  (The first two were closed for the season; the third had closed for the night 15 minutes before we got there, but the fourth was just right.  Even if I lost by one stroke.)
  • Eating.  And eating some more.  And doing a lot more eating.  And then some.  (Favorites included the Brie LT Sandwich at Cravings — crispy bacon, creamy brie, green leaf lettuce, and tomatoes that tasted like garden-grown tomatoes — even though it was November.)
  • Long walks on the beach, mostly at sunset.  The first day, the waves were high and plentiful — all the way out to the horizon.  The second day, the waves were standard — a few breaking close to shore.  The third day, the sea was almost dead calm — tiny little breakers right at the shoreline, but nothing to see for miles…  Here’s a pic from the second day:IMG_0060
  • Not writing.  Not a word.  Not even to scribble down ideas for the next novel.  Even though I had lots of ideas swirling around inside my head.

Now, I’m back home, and excavating my inbox, and trying to shift life back to normal.  The high temp on this blustery day is supposed to be 42 degrees — a far cry from the 65 we enjoyed on Sunday.  At least I have cats glued to my lap to keep me warm…

So?  How about you?  How was your weekend?

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Southern Festival of Books

I had the pleasure of spending the past weekend at the Southern Festival of Books, in Nashville, Tennessee.  The Festival was held on the War Memorial Plaza — right near the State Capitol, various legislative buildings, and assorted other state buildings.  My panel was on Saturday afternoon — at the very end of the day — and it was held in a legislative room where visitors needed to clear security before being allowed entrance.  I feared that I would be alone in the room.

My fears turned out to be totally unfounded.  My co-panelist (Kristin O’Donnell Tubb) and I got to speak to a crowded room.  In fact, here’s the view from the last row:


(I’m the little red blob that you can see at the center of the panel, far, far from the back.)  Kristin and I each spoke for a few minutes, and we read from our books, and then we answered questions from the audience.  After the panel, we traipsed over to the War Memorial Colonnade, and we signed books.  I was thrilled to learn that the festival booksellers sold out of DARKBEAST, and they only had a handful of REBELLION left when I stopped by on Sunday afternoon.

The Festival was wonderfully well-organized.  They took care of shuttles to and from the airport, and when I checked in, they presented me with a fun goody-bag, full of Tenneessee treats (moonpies, Goo-goo clusters, cashew brittle, and Jack Daniels!)  Everyone was incredibly friendly and enthusiastic.

We had a good time in Nashville, aside from the Festival, as well.  We visited the Johnny Cash Museum and the Country Music Hall of Fame.  We hiked out to the Parthenon, near Vanderbilt, and we trekked up the hill to the Capitol, to see the gravesite of James K. Polk (the only president who went to University of North Carolina, and therefore of interest to one of the people in our party :-) )

We enjoyed great food — barbecue at Jack’s and chicken fried steak at Puckett’s and pancakes at the Pancake Pantry.  (For the latter, we met up with friends D and J, who drove into town to see us — we felt especially honored!)  And we generally felt like we were away from home for a very nice trip!

Now, I’m back at home, trying to catch up on all the exciting work that drifted in over the long weekend…

So?  Have you been to Nashville?  If so, what did you think?  And if not, what did *you* do on your weekend?

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Forsooth! And Zounds! And Other Shakespearean Oaths!

Hello there!  Remember me?

You didn’t hear from me last week, because I was off in Ashland, Oregon.  I saw five plays at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, ate fine food with family and friends, stayed up late talking with my college roommate, ate more food, learned how to make chain maille jewelry, ate more food, bought the first quilt patterns I’ve bought in years, ate more food…  Well, you get the idea!  Here are the five plays we saw, in a nutshell:

  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream – I’ve seen about a jillion productions of this.  Last winter, I saw the Best Production Ever of this (with acrobats and circus-like tricks), after which I said I never needed to see another production.  Alas, OSF’s version didn’t change my mind — it was … serviceable.  But there wasn’t anything special, anything over-the-top, anything magical.  Although Puck was played by a woman.  Why haven’t I seen more versions of this play with Puck performed by a woman?
  • King Lear – This play was performed in a black-box theater, and I very much enjoyed the creative staging (including the two bodies left onstage throughout almost all of the second intermission).  In this version, Lear killed the Fool, which made sense in a sad, eerie way — I’ve never seen that interpretation before, but it worked.  The Fool was *brilliant* (and I’m not much for Shakespearean fools…)  And the overall production sort of snuck up on me — I found myself getting really choked up when Lear dragged Cordelia on at the end.  (Some audience members were openly weeping…)
  • My Fair Lady – Yep.  You caught me.  This one wasn’t Shakespeare.  This was a fun production, with a lot of the staging done “in the open” (actors sat on stage, when they weren’t in their scenes; warm-ups were conducted in front of the audience, etc.)  I really liked Eliza’s voice and her general presence.  The production didn’t quite make the final transition work — they didn’t make me believe that Higgins’s eyes were truly opened by love — but I’m not at all convinced that there’s anything for the actors to work with.  Oh – an astonishing number of things went wrong in this performance — from parasols not staying open to books falling apart to thrown pillows falling off-stage to a thrown engagement ring bouncing off the one possible upright at that part of the stage and winging back to the thrower…  The actors recovered from each mini-disaster well.
  • Taming of the Shrew – I hate this play.  I hate the misogyny and the capitulation of Kate (along with the “Kate has to be married so that Bianca can marry” storyline.)  I thought I’d seen a version that worked, when Kate and Petrucio made a side bet for the last scene — she pretended to be tamed, and they shared the money he reaped from his friends.  This production was ***BRILLIANT***.  (I never need to see another Shrew again in my life.)  The setting (in a campy beach town, like Ocean City) was fun.  But the main power came from the interpretation — Kate and Petrucio lusted after each other at first sight, and that lust grew to true love as they realized they could trust each other.  There were blatant overtones of a fun, kinky, consensual relationship, where each gave as good as s/he took, and the final scene worked in ways I’d never imagined it could.  (It didn’t hurt that the entire production was cut down to 2 hours.)
  • Cymbeline – I’d only seen this once before, and that production hadn’t been fully successful.  This was moreso, but it’s still a problematic play — too long, to wordy, too filled with bizarre coincidence that the characters never seem to notice.  The actors were good — Imogen and Posthumous made believable lovers.  The production made shrewd use of a deaf actor who played King Cymbeline — other people’s love of the king was shown directly by how well they signed to him.  There were some good elements, but the play itself is … meh.

So, now I’m back home.  I’ve gone to the grocery store, plowed through my inbox, and now I’m ready to settle back into writing.  Perfect Pitch, Chapter 6, here I come!

And you?  What’s new with you from the past week?

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Special Delivery!

One of the annoying things about writing for Harlequin is that they insist on buying all print rights for your book in essentially all markets throughout the world.  (Yeah, there are exceptions, but not many.)

One of the fun things about writing for Harlequin is that they send you copies of your books from essentially all markets throughout the world.  The books come in plain brown boxes, with only a shipping label to let you know what’s inside.  They don’t arrive on any type of schedule.  Every once in a while, a box contains books you’ve previously received.  (And, alas, every once in a while specific books don’t actually make their way to your doorstep.)

This afternoon I received copies of my favorite Harlequin translation ever:  MILJARDARI KUSITAV ABIELU.  That’s THE BILLIONAIRE’S QUESTIONABLE MARRIAGE.  In Estonian.


I was fortunate enough to travel to Estonia a few years ago — I spent a couple of days in Tallinn (where I marveled at a country that was more computer- and wifi-capable than home!) and wandered in the charming Disney-esque old city.  I visited the Singing Fields, where people gather for the traditional folksong singing that became the basis for a revolution against the Soviets.  I traveled to the  Estonian Outdoor Museum, where I saw traditional Estonian homes from the north and south of the country, dating back hundreds of years.  I walked along sea-side paths, complete with keeks (giant swings) and thatched-roof huts and mushrooms galore.

And now, I can picture all the people I met going into their local bookshop and asking for my book.  In Estonian.  Which makes me laugh, in a good way.

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