Here a Doc, There a Doc…

Here’s a paradox:  When I’m at my busiest, having the most fun, doing the most things it would be exciting to write about, I don’ t have time to write.  Yeah, life is tough sometimes.  A lot of the time.


In any case – we spent a long weekend at AFIDocs, a documentary film festival here in town.  We first “discovered” AFIDocs two years ago, when it was called Silverdocs, and it had been going on for many years before that.  The festival has undergone many changes in the last two years, and we sort of miss the halcyon days of the first time we attended, but it’s still a pretty amazing way to spend time.  This year, we saw ten movies in three days.  Some were “small” films that aren’t likely to see wide distribution; others have already been picked up for national distribution.

The overarching theme for us this year turned out to be Personal Responsibility — responsibility to recognize injustice and to act upon it.  (We didn’t plan our movie choices that way; it just happened.)  Movies that fit into that theme included:

  • 1971 — about a group of protesters who broke into the FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, intending to steal draft records but ultimately stealing documents that disclosed the existence of the FBI’s domestic counterintelligence program
  • Freedom Summer — about the summer of 1964 and the volunteers who went to Mississippi to register voters, teach students in summer “Freedom Schools”, and create the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party that tried to be seated as the legitimate Miss. delegation at the national Democratic convention
  • The Hand That Feeds — about a group of low-wage workers who organized a union at a New York fast food restaurant
  • The Internet’s Own Boy — about Aaron Swartz, the Internet activist who committed suicide rather than face trial for downloading unlawful copies of journal articles through MIT’s computers

We also saw several movies that were portraits of people:

  • Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me — about the musician and his family and their decision to organize a final musical tour as he became increasingly incapacitated with Alzheimer’s
  • Life Itself — about Roger Ebert and his life as a journalist and film critic
  • Slingshot — about Dean Kamen and his quest to build and distribute a machine that will bring clean water to under-resourced regions of the world

And then there were a few “random” movies:

  • Misconception — about population control efforts, including mandatory family size limitation, lobbying efforts at the UN to fight all efforts to distribute health care to women, and Ghanaian orphans and abandoned children
  • The Search for General Tso — ostensibly about the origin of the dish General Tso’s Chicken, but mostly about Chinese immigration into the United States and the nature of cultural assimilation
  • When the Garden was Eden — about the championship New York Knicks teams of the late 60′s and early 70′s

My favorites ended up being Slingshot — Dean Kamen seems like a child-loving Willie Wonka, who creates gadgets instead of candy — and The Search for General Tso.  None of the movies was terrible (although the horribly uncomfortable seats in one of the auditoriums made some of the movies seem too long…)

All in all, a great way to spend a weekend.  And if you can see Slingshot, do.

Read More

New! and Improved! Bookshelf!

Once upon a time, I kept track of the books that I read during each year, using the blog Category “Bookshelf”.  Those posts were always a bit annoying for me to write, due to the quirks of WordPress software (which insisted on eating my Bookshelf posts far more often than it did any other post I made.)

This year, I’ve been doing something a bit different — I’ve been keeping my Books Read record in Pinterest.  That gives me a chance to track the information *and* to share  cool book covers with anyone who’s interested.  So, if you want to see what I’ve been up to on the book front, here’s the board:

(As usual, I don’t list books that I didn’t finish — most of those are discarded by the first 10% (although I just ditched one read at 50%, because I could tell absolutely everything that was going to happen in it!)  For the Pinterest board, I’ve started listing books that I’ve read in draft form, if I’ve read them in their entirety, but I’ve only listed them as “Super Secret Advance Reader Copy”, so that the author can change the name of his/her book at the same time that she changes everything else about the book.  Finally, if I read an Advance Reader Copy to blurb it, I’ve given the name, because I’m pretty sure it won’t be changing at this relatively late date :-) )

So?  Have you read any of the books I did?  What great books have you read in the first half of 2014?

Read More

Don’t Miss It Till It’s Gone…

Last Thursday, I went in for my annual eye exam.  (I’m blind as the proverbial bat, but I’ve always been correctable to 20/20, so it’s no big deal.)

The optometrist went through the usual regimen — I read from the eye chart, told him when horizontal and vertical lines met, caught fingers waggling at me in my peripheral vision, etc.  I even had fancy-dancy pictures taken with some new scanning system that apparently indicated that I’m not currently experiencing even the beginning push of macular degeneration (yay!)


At the end of all that, the doc told me he wanted to put me into new contacts — greater comfort, less accumulation of deposits, etc.  After confirming that the new lenses only cost a few bucks more than my old ones, I readily agreed.  (I know how these things work — I understand that the doctor may well earn a higher percentage on the new lenses than he did on the old, and I get that detail-men push the new.  But I figured, improvement is good.)

The new lenses are more comfortable — I don’t need to rinse them in the evening, as I often needed to do with my old ones.  I’ll accept that they’re accumulating fewer deposits; they’ve only been in for four days.

But they are the wrong prescription.

Oh – my far-distance vision is sharper than it’s ever been before.  This past weekend, when the sun was out nearly all day both days, I was astonished by the beauty of light passing through leaves on distant trees, a level of detail I haven’t made out in quite some time.

But my near-distance vision has become completely blurred.  (I’ve gradually been moving into the realm of needing reading glasses; I have a couple of 1.0 pairs around the house, and one pair of 1.25.)  I can no longer read the newspaper, no matter how far away I hold it.  My laptop screen is blurred if my laptop is, um, on my lap.  My desktop monitor is slightly blurred, when I sit at my standard distance.  My knitting is completely out of focus.


I spent the weekend wearing readers, and I got by okay, with only a hint of a headache by the end of each day (which may or may not be from the lenses — I get a lot of headaches.)  I called the doctor’s office this morning, and the receptionist says the doctor will call me back.  In the meantime, I’m trying to convince myself that I am *rocking* these readers, and the librarian eyeglass thing is the look for me!

(And I hear about the Roman army checking soldiers’ vision by asking them to count the Pleiades, and I laugh.  I could not make out the *moon* without corrective lenses!)

Read More

Happy Freedomversary to Me!

Six years ago today, I walked away from my last office job.  And I don’t regret that transition one bit.


When I took that job fifteen months earlier — managing a staff of 27 librarians in seven offices, supporting a 12-office law firm — I thought it was perfect for me.  The position was a new one for the firm; the library had never been managed by a professional librarian before.  I came from a number of firms where the library was greatly respected as a team player on major projects, and I looked forward to creating the same powerhouse for my new employer.

Alas, the job didn’t shape up in reality the way it had in my mind.  I ended up traveling a lot — up to two weeks a month — at a time when I was settling in to happy married life at home.  My superiors and I had very different ideas about the role of a library, and the role of management in general.  Mergers reared their ugly heads, along with reductions in force, with seismic shifts in functioning.

I still understood how to create the library I wanted, one that would please my superiors and the lawyers at the firm.  I drew up a plan to achieve that — a five-year plan, with specific goals along the way.

But then I realized I didn’t want to make that five-year investment.

I realized I needed to look for a new job.  I returned home from a particularly grueling trip, and I announced that I was going to start my job search the following day.  My husband said, “Why don’t you try writing full time?”

And so I did.

There are days that I miss the steady certainty of a paycheck deposited into my bank, no matter what projects have been completed in the past several weeks.  There are days that I wonder how my five-year plan would have worked, what I would have accomplished.  And I miss the people — my staff — who were excellent librarians, one and all.
But I don’t regret my decision, ever.  I don’t regret creating the Diamond Brides.  Or the Darkbeast books (as Morgan Keyes).  Or new Jane Madison books.Pretty much, I don’t regret anything.So Happy Freedomversary to me.  And happy weekend to all of you!

Read More

The Twilight Zone

I do my best thinking (at least as far as my novels are concerned) in the shower — I cannot count the number of times I’ve solved plot problems while shampooing my hair.  I do my second best thinking while walking — the three-block trip to the subway is usually long enough.


But lately, I’ve been solving story problems in the twilight zone, just before I fall asleep or just as I’m waking up.  Science has a word for this:  hypnagogia.  I’ve actually always done a lot of plot-solving as I fall asleep, but those solutions have almost always been forgotten, washed away by actual sleep and dreaming.  Or, upon waking, I remember the solution but conclude that it’s worthless.

That’s what’s changed.  For the last couple of weeks, I’ve figured out fixes that stay in my brain, through sleep, through dreams, through awakening.  Also, I’ve figured out different fixes in the morning, before I’m fully awake.

The Post-It notes by my bed are a workout — I don’t trust myself to remember most of my solutions through the mind-scrubbing routines of brushing teeth, washing my face, etc.  But so far, so good.

And now I’m off to write Chapter 7 of FROM LEFT FIELD.  Because, you know.  I figured out that there’s an actual *villain* in this romance!

Read More

The Limiting Reagent

Years ago, when I took high school chemistry, I learned about the “limiting reagent” — the ingredient in a chemical reaction that is first used up, thereby making the continuing reaction impossible.  It’s a simple idea, really, nothing to write home about.  But I love the concept, and I use the phrase all the time.


This morning, I bought milk at a not-usual-for-me grocery store, because milk was the limiting reagent in our refrigerator — it was the commonly-used item we were most in danger of running out of, and the one I would most likely need to interrupt my writing to go buy.

I think of a lot of my life in terms of restricted elements — time, for example, and money and time and creativity and time and energy and time and…  Well, you get the idea.  For the most part, I run out of time to do all the things I want to do, well before I run out of the other requirements.  Maybe that’s what made fall in love with the idea of the limiting reagent.

Do you view the world this way?  Have you ever, in everyday conversational speech, said, “I’ll run by the grocery store to pick up some milk, because it’s our limiting reagent”?  Or am I the only crazy one?  (Don’t answer that.  Really.)

Read More

On the Right Track

I spent this past Saturday at a writing seminar taught by Candace Havens and Liz Pelletier. Candace presented her Fast Track writing workshop (write a novel in a month), and Liz presented her three-part Edit Like a Professional workshop.  Both women were friendly and engaging, and they handled lots of questions from the very engaged group.

Candace’s Fast Track program turns out to be a version of what I’ve been doing to complete the Diamond Brides.  Candace measures her progress in pages, rather than words, and she relies heavily on group accountability — announcing that you’re working, announcing that you’ve worked.  But aside from those two differences, we both believe in writing every day, writing till you’ve met your goal for the day, turning off your internal editor to just get words down, and reveling in the way our subconscious minds know the story and track the story and relate the story — often better than our conscious minds could do.

(Candace also advocates a positive attitude — there is no whining in Fast Track — an approach that I *try* to emulate on a daily basis!)

Liz’s editing sessions emphasized a somewhat different system than my own — she advocates three editing passes.  The first is an overall read-through without any commenting on the actual manuscript (focusing on the global aspects of the story), the second is a firm editing pass of the story, and the third is a copy-edit-ish pass of the actual text.  (She has different terms; I’m summarizing.)

I found that greatest value in Liz’s admonishments to edit the story — both what is (duh!) and *isn’t* there.  She advises writers to look for missing scenes, to realize when they’ve forgotten to include vital information, etc. — vital reminders, especially to those of us writing fast.

(With regard to actual text, Liz and I are in almost complete agreement about grammar and usage — she values the Oxford comma as much as I do! — but we’ll have to agree to disagree about exclamation points, which she says should never be in a novel.)

So, useful sessions, as reminders of what I should be doing, if nothing else :-)

Alas, I ended up missing the Sunday sessions, due to my pinching a nerve in my neck while I was engaging in the extraordinary task of *getting dressed*.  Yes, ladies and gents, I have skilz!

So, Sunday was a quiet day around here — I finished reading BRING UP THE BODIES (which I loved, loved, loved), and I finished knitting my Wingspan shawl in summer blues and greens (which I love, love, love), and similar high-value activities :-)

And now, it’s time to get back to writing.  Without whining.  Because there’s no whining in Fast Track or in Klasky Rapid Release :-)

What did *you* do this weekend?

Read More

Balancing the Books

Years ago, one of my friends set up three to-be-read piles in his apartment — fiction, non-fiction, and classics.  He read in order, taking the top book on each pile, alternating between the three piles, always adding new books to the bottom.

Me?  I pretty much smash-and-grab.

I have a *lot* of books on my to-be-read shelf.  And more on my wish list.  And even more that are on the bookshelves scattered through our house — books that belonged to Mark and that look inviting, if I ever find the time to get to them.

Alas, I read relatively slowly.  And when I’m busy (socially or with work or whatever), the only reading time I have is the 15 minutes or so before I fall asleep each night.  I’m gradually coming to accept that I’ll never read all the to-be-read books in my life.  (I’m having a much harder time accepting that than I am, say, accepting that I’ll never win a medal at the Olympics…)


Given the general craziness in Klaskyville for the past few months, I’ve been reading mostly “candy” — contemporary romance, YA, light literary novels.  But last week, during Staycation, I decided I was up for something with a bit more meat.  I pulled up a book I’ve been meaning to get to for over a year — Hilary Mantel’s BRING UP THE BODIES (the second volume in her chronicle of Thomas Cromwell’s life.)

I am *loving* it.  I’m loving the language — both what she says (and what she doesn’t) and how she says it.  I’m loving the characterization, which is accomplished with such an economy of language that I’m astonished.  I’m loving the history, at least viewed through Mantel’s lens.

I’ve been holding off on “thought” books, on “literary” books, on “hard” books, because I’ve been juggling so much.  But maybe, just maybe, I was making a mistake.

How about you?  What types of books do you turn to when life is chaotic?

Read More

And Without Further Ado… Second Thoughts!

I’m *thrilled* to share the next Diamond Brides book with you:  SECOND THOUGHTS!


Here’s the scoop:

Photographer Jamie Martin gave up her fast-paced New York career and moved to slower Raleigh, NC to raise an unexpected blessing: her daughter Olivia.  Desperate for clients, Jamie is thrilled to land a job with the Rockets baseball team…until she discovers she must work with her ex-fiancé, who doesn’t know he’s fathered her child.

Career-driven second baseman Nick Durban broke up with Jamie at college graduation so they both could follow their dreams. Seven years later, he gets a reality check when he learns about Olivia.

Jamie is so determined to keep Nick out of her life that she tries online dating, never dreaming he is her perfect electronic match.  Can this out-of-sync couple get past their second thoughts and learn to trust each other again?

You can buy SECOND THOUGHTS here.

And you can read an excerpt here.

I hope you love this book as much as I do!  (The “perfect electronic match” part is very special to me, because I met my perfect electronic match twelve years ago!)

Read More
Email Newsletters with VerticalResponse