Business As Usual (Baseball Edition)

So, we went to see the Nats play last night.  And it was yet another boring, hum-drum baseball game.  (Insert boring, humdrum details about weird 5:00 start, wait to get Racing President Taft bobblehead, etc.)

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When we got to our seats, I became a subversive agent for good.  When one climbs the stairs in our section, rows A-D can *only* be reached by turning to the right.  Rows E-N can *only* be reached to the left.  There are no signs and no ushers, and we (in row G), spend a substantial part of each game redirecting people who climb up to row D and then look puzzled (while blocking our view of the game.)  Yesterday, I brought a small paper sign with directional arrows and taped it to the glass wall.  And not *one* person got confused for the entire course of the game.  (At least that I saw.  I was mostly watching the game, and not the crowd.)  I intend to bring signs to future games!

The game itself was a back and forth struggle, with the lead changing dramatically four times.  (Insert long discussion for baseball lovers.)  In the end, we won in extra innings.  Of course there were extra innings, because *I* was at the game.  The Nats play extra innings in the majority of games I attend, or so it seems.  (Sometimes, it’s just that Strasburg pitched, so it seems like extra innings with the slooooow play.)

The key feature of the game, though, was this:  I wore my  baseball cap, and they won.  Every time I wear my baseball cap and attend a game, they win.  If I attend a game and forget my cap, they lose.  (My cap is their old DC design, in traveling blue, with a blue bill — I never see anyone else with it.  That must be why it’s lucky!)  When Soriano blew the save, I thought the luck of my cap had been depleted, but no!  It held true!

(And yes, baseball fans are superstitious.  So are baseball players.  Those superstitions figure heavily into ALWAYS RIGHT, the Diamond Brides book I’m writing now.)

So, we ended up winning, and we were home 4.75 hours after the game started.  So maybe that 5:00 start wasn’t such a bad idea after all…

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The Deeply Personal

Yesterday was Errand Day here in Klaskyville. As I was walking back from the post office, I was held at a crosswalk, so that traffic could turn.  Given the caravan of 18-wheelers completing the turn and not yielding to oncoming traffic when they had the plain green light (no, I don’t know why they were there; they had *no* markings on any of the five trucks), the wait was a bit longer than expected, which gave me a chance to study the personalized license plates of the cars to my left and on the cross-street to my right.

imagesI mostly think that personalized plates are silly.  I don’t understand paying extra for them, and most of the time they seem to reflect inside jokes that just seem a bit absurd when shared with the outside world.  I’ve never owned a personalized plate (although I came close when my parents bought a silver Datsun station wagon and considered the plate “HI HO AG”.)  Mark once applied for a personalized plate with the names of his two cats, but the application was rejected as “vulgar” (the plate would have read “TED YAZ”, and no, we’ve never figured out what’s vulgar about that.)

So…  Yesterday’s plates.  (I didn’t get pictures of either.)

The first was on a white Toyota Corolla.  The driver was a crew-cut white guy, with a squint that rivaled Clint Eastwood’s best.  The plate was a specialty one, yellow with black letters, the “Don’t Tread on Me” plate, and the text was “NVA TP”.  For those who, like me, thought this was some sort of ad for toilet paper, the bottom half of the back window of the car was covered with helpful bumper stickers, all proclaiming Northern Virginia Tea Party.  (I seriously questioned whether he could see out the window, with all the paper glued to the glass.)

The second plate was on a gold Cadillac, one of the huge ones, maybe from the 1970s?  The woman driving was probably in her sixties.  She had a huge dyed-black bouffant hairdo.  In her bright-red talons, she held a cell phone with one hand, and a pink donut with sprinkles in the other.  She looked as if she’d enjoyed many donuts in the past — about 400 pounds worth.  And her license plate said “KUTYPY”.

I sort of wanted the cars to collide, just so I could see what happened when NVA TP and KUTYPY were mixed together.  KUTYPY could have sat on NVA TP, winning the battle before it began.

The caravan of trailers finally passed, and I went on my way.  But I’m pretty sure I won’t be buying a personalized license plate any time soon.

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Re-Arranging Deck Chairs

I’ve lived in the same house for twenty-two years.  That notion astonishes me — especially because, on some days, I think I’m only about 25 years old.  (I’m not trying to lie about my age.  I just forget the real answer and have to stop and think about it!)

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Over the years, I’ve done some redecorating.  I used to have wallpaper in both bedrooms and in the entry hall — that’s been taken down and painted over for more than a decade.  The living room walls used to be the lightest shade of blue that the human eye could register as blue, but they’ve been yellow for ages.  My office used to have a deep lavender wall, covered over with white lattice, like you’d see in a garden, but it’s now a uniform green-blue shade that I call “chameleon” for the way it changes in the light.

I’m starting to feel an itch to move.  My dream house, just around the corner, went on the market last month, but it was priced at $1.8 million.  (Yeah, I dream big.  No, the price wasn’t typical of the neighborhood, not by a long shot.)

It doesn’t make any *sense* for me to move.  I’m a few blocks from a subway station, and I’m surrounded by almost every store I need.  I can walk to a grocery store, a drug store, and the post office, and there’s a shopping mall a block away.  There’s a farmer’s market that sets up once a week across from the subway station.  I (mostly) have good neighbors, including one who is a close enough friend that she looks in on the cats when I travel.

But I want to change things.  I want another room in the house, so I can set up a treadmill.  I want a cozy reading nook.  I want room to maintain a yarn stash, and a fabric stash, too.  I want the peace and quiet of a suburban street, and I wouldn’t mind a garden plot for fresh tomatoes.

Mind you, I don’t use the exercise equipment I own now.  And I can read in two chairs, a couch, and my bed.  I have a coffee table with drawers for yarn, and an under-bed box for fabric.  Suburban streets require a distance from all the things I access on a daily basis now, and I can get those tomatoes (and thieving birds, rodents, and deer) without all the work, from the farmer’s market.

So it’s time to change things up in Klaskyville.  First up, this past weekend, was rearranging the guest bedroom — same furniture in a different configuration, making the whole space look fresh.

Next up will be a new reading chair, to be delivered this weekend.

After that, we’ll go big — probably paint the entire interior of the house.  I’ve been thinking various neutrals, variations on taupe, but now I’m considering greys (and I’m not the only one who gets a vote!)  And there’s a shadow of a hint of a possibility of a chance that we’ll redo one of the bathrooms — because in the current market that could be a huge “plus” in the sale-ability column, and we might as well enjoy it before we sell.

Because it’s likely to be another ten years before I move out of this place.  So I better make it what I want it to be.  Do you have any favorite “refresher” tips for spaces that feel a bit *too* familiar?

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Do You Re-read Books?

This past weekend, I curled up in my comfy red-and-gold chair (after removing the gold cat, who makes the chair more gold than red), and I re-read THE HOBBIT.  I haven’t read THE HOBBIT since …  maybe college?  High school?  Maybe even junior high?

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(I know that I first read the book as required reading in fifth grade, and I re-read it numerous times in middle school.  The copy I read this past weekend was highly annotated — I planned on turning the novel into a play, and I struck through vast quantities of narration so that all of the dialog was ripe for the plucking.  The strike-throughs didn’t keep me from reading this time around, but I can’t *imagine* what I was thinking about my future as an adaptor.  Although, I did adapt THE LITTLE PRINCE and ILLUSIONS for successful school plays in ninth grade, so maybe I *was* onto something!)

In any case, it was a fun book to re-read.  I remembered huge swaths of the story (although, oddly, I’d almost completely forgotten about Beorn.)  I justified my wrath with the bloated movie version.  I laughed at some of the quaint language.

I actually intend to re-read LotR in the near future.  But generally, I don’t re-read books very often.  I don’t have a lot of time to read, because I work from home, so I no longer have a subway commute to fill with great books.  I’m a slow reader, so any book I choose to read represents a fairly substantial investment of my time.  A lot of my reading choices are occupied by books that I *must* read — either for editing clients, or for the Book View Cafe co-op, or to stay abreast of developments in the genres where I write.  All of those factors combine to make re-reads “cost” a lot.

But there are long lists of books I want to re-read — Patricia McKillip’s THE FORGOTTEN BEASTS OF ELD.  R.A. MacAvoy’s TEA WITH THE BLACK DRAGON.  The early Pern books.  Etc., etc., etc.  Obviously, I need to manage my time a lot better than I’m currently doing.

So.  How about you?  Do you re-read books?  If you do, how do you choose which ones to re-read?  How often do you set aside books, realizing that they aren’t as good as you remember them to be?  How often do you discover greater depths that you missed on earlier rounds?

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STOPPING SHORT — In Stores Today!

What a coincidence!  We’re just about two thirds of the way through the summer, and today we’re two thirds of the way through the Diamond Brides Series with the official release of STOPPING SHORT!  (Amazon Kindle | Apple | B&N Nook | Book View Cafe | Createspace Print | Kobo) (More links coming soon!)  If you like tortured heroes with buried secrets, this book is for you!  Or maybe you enjoy a widow’s story, a heroine who thinks she’ll never love again…

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STOPPING SHORT is the first Diamond Brides book that takes place outside of Raleigh, North Carolina.  It’s spring training, and the Rockets are down in Coral Crest, Florida, where all sorts of rules are relaxed.  Here’s the “back of the book” copy:

Drew Marshall, the Raleigh Rockets’ bad-boy shortstop, is about to be cut from the team.  In the midst of spring training his baseball skills are slipping, and his recent scrapes with the law have put him in hot water.

Drew’s agent hires spin doctor Jessica Barnes to save the shortstop’s career.  Although she knows nothing about baseball, she is determined to work day and night to save Drew – and to prove she’s over the death of her risk-taking husband.

Jessica’s campaign spirals out of control when a well-intentioned teammate announces she is Drew’s secret fiancée.  Now trapped in the same hotel room, the couple crafts a fake relationship to satisfy ravenous reporters, all the while doing their best to resist a mutual attraction that’s hotter than the Florida weather.

But how can a relationship survive when it’s built on secrets and lies?

There’s an excerpt available online:  http://www.mindyklasky.com/index.php/books/passion/diamond-bride-series/stopping-short/

So?  What are you waiting for?  STOPPING SHORT is a fun, sexy summer read.  Get your copy today!

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On Live Rats and Dead Dogs

Back in college, I was very active in theater — I stage managed many plays, and I was house manager for the university’s Program of Theater and Dance.  I never got on stage myself (and for that, the community was very grateful!) but I supplemented my hands-on experience with a number of courses on theater, including a class on Shakespeare, one on modern drama (mostly, early 20th c), and one on contemporary drama (late 1960s and forward.)

One of my drama professors drilled home the point that when a playwright calls for something difficult in the staging of his plays (especially children and animals), he must truly think it’s important.  Therefore, the three identical sets of plants in Sam Shepard’s TRUE WEST (one set alive and well for the first act, one set dying for the middle act, one set dead for the third act) are an indication of the significance of those plants to the narrative.  (Personally, I think Shepard just hates stage managers — witness other requirements for his plays, including screen doors that are cut through, bottles that are shattered, etc.)

I was reminded of this theory, in spades, last night when we saw the National Theater telecast of THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT.  The play *opens* with a very realistic dead dog, staked to the stage with a garden fork.  Throughout much of the play, the main character (an autistic 15-year-old) carries his live rat — through a variety of settings, including an imagined trip to outer space.  (There’s another challenging staging thing late in the play, but I won’t mention it, lest I spoil the story…)

By and large, I think it was worth the effort to “kill” the dog and keep the rat alive.  Both add great depth to the story.  When I first heard they were making a play out of this novel (told from the point of view of the 15-year-old, with many of his tics incorporated into the narration), I couldn’t imagine how they could stage it.  Not all of their efforts worked, but the show was very imaginative.  The parts of the story that were most difficult for Christopher were most difficult for the audience — the production uses sound and light and movement to represent the disorientation of the main character.

This production is also quite meta — the characters know that they’re in a play, and they comment occasionally on that fact.  At times, the entire thing felt *too* staged, too “created”, but there were genuine emotions evoked.  The characters were complex — none of the main characters is all good or all bad, and no one has an easy life.

This is only the second telecast I’ve seen, and I was impressed with the presentation.  The team uses multiple cameras, sometimes from angles that the theater audience can’t experience.  The close-ups give a much more intimate view of the actors (even if they take away a bit, showing the microphones, etc.)  I’ll definitely consider other performances in the future!

(I was reminded, as I watched the show, of Kazuo Ishiguro talking about his novel REMAINS OF THE DAY, which he said he wrote specifically to be not-filmable, as a form of art separate from the television and film that he loved growing up.  Of course, it was transformed into an incredible movie with Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson.  I suspect Mark Haddon never contemplated his slender novel turning into a play either!)

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Notebook of Doom

So, Saturday night, we went to a baseball game, as one does.

(Before that, we went to dinner, as one does.  To Medium Rare, which serves bread, salad, steak frites, and that’s it.  And we had a fantastic dinner — better than I’d expected, with perfect, salty, crisp frites that complemented the steak perfectly!)

Anyway, we went to a baseball game.  And the Nationals knocked around the Brewers pitcher pretty badly in the first inning, so the game had a pretty relaxed, easy-going feel.  And about halfway through the fifth inning, I all of a sudden realized that I didn’t need to write the next scene in CENTER STAGE, because it was boring and talk-y and didn’t tell the reader anything the reader didn’t already know.

But I *did* need to add a scene with a direct confrontation between two major characters, one where one guy says, “Do this and there’ll be Consequence X” and the other guy says, “I’m doing this, so get your consequences ready.”

Being an author, even an author at a baseball game, I had a notebook with me.  So I took out my pen and I scribbled away at a full page of dialog, using the extensive abbreviation scheme that I created in law school, so that I could transcribe hours of notes on Commercial Paper and other classes that left me clueless.

Today, I’ll be writing up that scene.  And I have the cheerful feeling that it’s already half done.  It’s almost like I get to spend the day editing instead of writing!  Yay, yay, yay.

And the Nats won.

And I spent yesterday at the Washington Romance Writers summer barbecue, chatting with friends, eating a killer chocolate cake I had no business enjoying as much as I did, and having a grand time away from the computer.

So, today is pretty much perfect :-)

How about you?  Did you have a good weekend?

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Reclaiming the Trope

Look up the word trope in your dictionary.  Go ahead.  I’ll wait.

The first definition is probably something along the lines of “a metaphor”.  The second definition is probably something along the lines of “a cliche”.  The second definition likely isn’t tagged “pejorative”, but it should be.  People sneer at tropes, whether they’re talking about movies, books, or any other form of art.

And yet.

And yet romance novels, especially category romance novels, are built on tropes.  The entire idea of the genre is that we take a relatively few elements — a lover, another lover, (maybe more lovers), a trope or two or ten, emotion, conflict, and a satisfying ending — and we tell a story that is different, interesting, engaging, unique.

That’s the challenge of the genre.  That’s the joy — both in writing and in reading.

Tropes fade in and out of popularity.  It’s a pretty hard sell to set a romance in contemporary times and have a credible ward/guardian love story without setting off every possible creepster alarm — but it *can* be done.  It’s easier to use the trope of the secret baby now that lots of women are enjoying lots of sex.  Royalty — especially sheikhs — are a bit sparse on the ground, but there are an awful lot of athletes and military men.   Some tropes have become inflated — millionaires have become billionaires (I guess that’s the value of shrewd investing, early in one’s financial career.)

So?  What’s your favorite trope?  You know you have one.  Or maybe more than one.

I’ve put together a list of romance tropes:  http://www.mindyklasky.com/index.php/for-writers/romance-tropes/

Check it out, and let me know if I’ve missed your favorite!

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9 Uses For a Flip and Tumble

Flip and Tumble — brand name for a light cloth bag that folds into its own pouch and can easily be tucked into a purse or, in a pinch, a pocket.  (First pointed out to me by Justine Larbalestier!)

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  1. Hold snacks purchased for early morning flight from Washington DC to Albuquerque (by way of Minneapolis, because why shouldn’t one fly north to end up south?)
  2. Hold rental agreement on “compact” car, which turns out to be a Chevy Malibu the size of the Queen Mary’s younger sister, because no “Corolla equivalents” were available in the parking lot.
  3. Hold funky keys for room at the Hotel St. Francis in Santa Fe, which looks like it could be the movie set for a film about convent life in the old Southwest (if, you know, the nuns had king size beds in their bedrooms and massive multi-jet showerheads in their bathrooms and drank lemon ice water every time they passed through the hotel lobby on their way to some fun exploration).
  4. Hold refillable (and many, many times refilled) water bottle for use at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Festival, where over 200 artisans from dozens of countries display and sell handmade art and crafts (along with a fun international “food court”, and a surprisingly cool breezeway at the top of the hill, just perfect for taking a break in the hot-but-not-blazing (it’s a dry heat!) afternoon.
  5. Hold raincoat for afternoon gulley washer that created a 15 minute deluge followed by 15 minutes of light rain.  Oh.  Wait.  I left my raincoat back in my room, so the Flip and Tumble wasn’t any good for this.  But I was under shelter for almost all of the rain, so no big deal.
  6. Hold guidebook with information on Tia Sophia’s, a hole-in-the-wall breakfast restaurant with a yummy, yummy, yummy breakfast burrito featuring sausage, potatoes, cheese, and lots of red chili sauce.
  7. Hold cell phone used for navigating from Santa Fe to Los Alamos, where one can watch a fun short documentary about the “town with no name” where the atom bomb was developed.  One can also peruse the science museum on site, but one might want to have higher degrees in science to understand some of the exhibits.  Or, one can play with the brain-teaser games on spacial relationships that become addictive the closer one gets to (not) finding a solution.  (Don’t rely too much on the cell phone, though, because coverage will cut out about 5 minutes away from the museum.)
  8. Hold laptop and Kindle while attending the Annual Feast Day dance at the Cochiti Pueblo, because even though it’s warm in the shade and hot in the sun, it’s much, much cooler than the trunk of the car, where the suitcases are waiting for their return journey home.
  9. Hold snacks purchased for on-flight dinner, after a cross-airport sprint when Leg One of the return flight lands 35 minutes late, due to weather in Minneapolis.

All in all, my mother and I had a wonderful trip.  We found amazing treasures at the Folk Art Festival, spoke with dozens of friendly, kind people, and truly enjoyed our mother/daughter break!

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A Writer of Independent Means

So, we celebrated Independence Day.  Which doesn’t mean much — we didn’t head out for fireworks (too crowded on the Mall, and I didn’t even realize we *had* a closer-to-us local display until I heard the pounding in the distance…)

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But we enjoyed the long weekend nevertheless, folding in:

  • Fourth of July dinner of hamburgers, Tater Tots (what?!?  Our forefathers would have fought a revolution for them!), watermelon, and homemade apple hand pies (verdict — *perfectly* tart for me, needed some sweetener for normal eaters),
  • Knitting and frogging the first eight rows of a new pattern (Teardrop — first the triangular shawl, then the rectangular one) at least forty times before I decided it just wasn’t meant to be my pattern (at least not with the yarn I have, and at least not while I try to watch TV or do anything else),
  • Orphan Black, at least the first season on binge, and a few episodes of the second season, but we aren’t through watching yet, so no spoilers please,
  •  Private Lives, at the Shakespeare Theater, which was thoroughly amusing in a very arched-eyebrow way,
  • a pedicure (notable for the *bright* pink polish on my toes, but most enjoyable for the chance to catch up with a friend I hadn’t seen in far too long.)

And there was the usual not-enough-reading, and the eating of the season’s first corn, and the watching of baseball, and the gorging on the season’s first cherries, and, and, and…

And now, it’s the workweek again, and I have a chapter of CENTER STAGE staring me in the face.  So, what am I waiting for!  I hope you had a good weekend, and a good long weekend if you were in the States!

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