Monday, August 23, 2010

More Synchronicity

I ran into some more reading synchronicity this weekend. Two books in a row, featuring amnesia. Now amnesia happens a lot more in fiction than real life, but since both of these books came from authors who are on my personal auto-buy list, I was unaware of these plot points until I dove in. It's also somewhat fascinating since they are different (not better or worse, just different) as two books can be. I suppose you could find two books that were more different, but one one hand (shelf?) we have Eileen Dreyer's Barely a Lady - an early Regency story that takes place in Belgium and England about a woman who stumbles across her ex-husband on the battlefield to discover that he is wearing the wrong (French) uniform and does not recall the last five years (which involve him accusing her of infidelity, and tossing her out, and divorcing her). On the other shelf we have Marjorie M. Liu's A Wild Light, the lastest installment of the Hunter Kiss series, a contemporary urban fantasy about a woman who protects humans from the things that wish to harm them, taking place in Seattle, and a few other planes as well. Both very enjoyable. And I felt both of them worked with the amnesia stories well.
Edited for typos.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Censorship Sucks

So, here’s the thing - I know I’ve said most, if not all, of this before. But it apparently bears repeating. People don’t have to love every boo, want to read every book, or even want their kids to read every book. Where censorship becomes an issue is when you make that decision for a whole group. I learned about sex when I was four. It did not make me try to run out and have any. I can’t pinpoint when I learned about drugs, but I can tell you that I was lucky enough to go to a great school that offered not only comprehensive sex ed, but drug education that was more than these are all the things you shouldn’t do. (It also talked about the different effects of different drugs, and the side effects.)
And I love books. I learned about all sorts of fascinating things from books, sparked great discussion with my parents and friends based on scenarios I read about, and got to think about what I would do if I were the character. Intriguingly, the Our Whole Lives sex ed course, uses similar scenario based role playing to help students (of all ages, they have junior high, high school, young adult and adult versions) think about how to handle conversations and choices. So I think reading about such things is great, and again, I promise teens know about sex and drugs (and rock and roll).
Ellen Hopkins, author of such books, was invited to the Teen Lit Fest that is being held in Texas in January. (I’ve heard good things about past festivals.) Anyway a teacher saw this and went to some parents who then went the the superintendent who uninvited her. Apparently, his response to one librarian in the district who wanted Hopkins there indicated that he hadn’t actually read the books in question but felt that the librarian he had spoken with had provided reasonable explanation. Here’s what annoys me about this (you know, other than the censorship). I recall, back in the day, a politician quoting the opening lines* of “Trainspotting” saying that this is what is wrong with today’s movies. The thing is, if you’ve actually seen the movie you know that that is the setup for the main character’s arc. He starts off a heroine addict with, well, no ambition and then, stuff happens and he changes. So, that quote lets you know where he starts. And the movie does a nice job of illustrating why you might not wish to be like these guys. But sure, if someone just read you that opening quote, you might not think there was anything good about the movie. And you’d be missing the point.
But, back to Hopkins the other reason (again, other than the censorship) it bugs is because wouldn’t it be really useful for, oh I don’t know, a discussion to occur at the Teen Lit Festival about how authors make choices about their books and about how teens actually feel about reading such things? And, sadly, the real losers are the teens who are now losing opportunities to meet with authors.

*”Choose life . . . But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life: I chose something else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you've got heroin?”

H/T to Smart Bitches for the link.
Also, Melisa De La Cruz has a post about her reaction here. And Tera Lynn Childs has her eloquent response here.

She Was An Excellent Typist

So, here’s the thing - while I am a baby twit, the appeal of Twitter is not lost on me. And I know there are a bunch of famous and/or funny people who are fun to follow and certainly that’s an accomplishment, as everyone who has ever tried to blog or Facebook knows, coming up with interesting stuff is not as easy as it seems sometimes. But, while I hesitate to appear to denigrate Twitter and it’s value as a communication tool and social media and even sometimes art form, I think for many people it is not their standout fact.
So, reading this article in which Stephen Fry, you know movie and television star Stephen Fry, as actor and Tweeter, I was taken aback. I tried to ponder if someone - someone who would be reading a newspaper would recognize Stephen Fry only as a tweeter (and yes, I realize the second paragraph gives a better accounting of his accomplishments). But he was in Alice in Wonderland and Bones, so I sort of think if you had managed to miss the other ninety some things in his imdb bio, that might have helped.
And look I’m not saying that you haven’t been paying attention if you didn’t know who he was, I’m suggesting that if you didn’t, I’m not sure tweeter would have helped you. And that leads me to the use of tweeter as a descriptor, because while I agree that it is something that people do, and may do very well, and certainly it is done in the public eye, it just somehow seems to me not one of the first two things I would tell someone about Stephen Fry. But maybe that’s just cause I don’t follow him.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Lose Weight in Two Hours

No, I do not have plans to turn this into a weight loss blog. But you know all those ads for this magic piece of exercise equipment or fabulous weight loss pill that will make you go from this to this in just months or even weeks? And probably you had sort of noticed that people in the before pictures usually look unhappy and they look happy in the after. And often it looks like they maybe got better lighting, makeup and hairstyling in the after picture. And certainly anyone (like me, for example) whose watched enough makeover shows knows how the right clothes, hair and makeup can make you look better even without popping pills or exercising. (Not that I am against exercising. In theory, I hear it's very good for you.) But what if I could (well, not me personally, but I will hand you free of charge, the link) make you look better in two hours?
Well these people proved that it can be done, with some cosmetic stuff, some new clothes, some push ups (yeah, I know, exercise, but they did all of the above in two hours. And they got this.

H/T to Five Full Plates for the Link.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Day 6 and 7- the Final Disneyfication

Saturday, I had planned to get up early for an 8:30 workshop. Except I slept through my alarm, so arrived closer to nine with damp hair. (I snuck in quietly. I also got the recordings so I can listen to the rest when they arrive.) Workshops and signings. I grabbed lunch in the little cafe which was jammed. More workshops and signings. I had also made a spa appointment for late afternoon so I could be extra pretty for the awards ceremony. I moderated a workshop given by a fellow YARWA member, which was funny because I figured it was an easy job until I figured out this meant I would forever be on the recordings. (No terrible mishaps that I recall.)
Then I went to the last two signings, rushed to my hotel, boxed up my books and headed to the shipping line where I thought I was in luck because compared to lunch time (where it had been out the door, round the corner, so to speak) it was tiny. Just ten to twelve people. Well, the good news is I had a nice long time to chat with my linemates because, it took (and I totally wish I was kidding) an hour and a half. Seriously, I have made trips to the Columbia Heights post office that took less time and that post office never has more than one person working, and sometimes that worker works like she’s being judged no how few people she can process each hour. It was particularly unfortunate because they had two guys but one computer. The plan was for one to pack and one to type everything up and process the money. I ended up calling the spa (who of course had a four hour cancellation policy, but fortunately were kind enough to say that they would see what I had time for once I got there). The person in front of me heard my call and offered to let me go ahead, but I told her honestly it wasn’t her little package holding me back, it was the slooooooooow process.
Anyhoo, I did finally get my package mailed ($20 - totally worth not having to schlep an extra bag home on metro). And made it to the spa in time to at least get a manicure. (Which was awesome, and my manicurist used to live in Fairfax.) I then raced back to the hotel threw on my dress, pinned up my hair and raced right back to get in line for the awards dinner. Managed to find the cherries, including the lovely Christine Merrill.
During the awards ceremony, they had some interludes where they posted covers of former Golden Heart winners (the unpublished contest) that had become books. Including, that of Christine Merrill! I was then told the story of how when Chris was nominated the announcer goofed and left out her name. One cherry jumped onto a chair and yelled her name and then, of course, she was the lucky winner. (By the way, I love Christine’s historicals and her self-pubbed contemporary.)
There were some great award speeches and it was lovely to see people win! After we hung out in the lobby for a while and then went up to a suite where a larger crowd had gathered. Someone had left their RITA sitting on the table. I might have gently touched it.

Sunday I slept through two alarms and ended up not making the airport shuttle that the shuttle people suggested I catch, and instead getting the one an hour later. (Oops!) I did pre-check in. And I had a lovely chat with a person who it turns out was the announcer back when a certain Christine Merrill was nominated for her Golden Heart. She told me the story, saying that she thought she had finished the names and then heard a commotion and looked at the prompter again and realized her error and added Chris. And then opened the envelope and said, “Of course.” I also ran into one of my line buddies from the shipping line. Anyway, I did get to the airport in time (just) and almost got foiled by the fact that the Orlando airport has a complete lack of self check in kiosks and of course my bag, while reasonably sized is not a carry on. Fortunately the skycap line was not crazy (the desk line was out the door and around the corner.) And despite all the warnings about the security line, I found it not terrible. So, I made it safely home.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Day 4 and 5 of the Disneyfication

Thursday I really sort of did need to be up early so I could head to an informal breakfast meeting of the YARWA group. We hung out in the Java Bar before heading to the lobby of the Dolphin to hang out some more. (Where I also had the opportunity to explain about the internet to a woman who apparently didn’t want to ask the nice hotel people how to make it go.) I met the librarian of the year, and she seems awesome and met some other writers before heading in for lunch, with the keynote being given by the lovely Nora Roberts. (Summary - If you think it’s harder to get published now, bullshit.) Then I headed to the PRO Retreat which was wonderful but I sat in the same chair for far too long - convinced that if I took a break I would win a prize. I should have bribed someone to pretend to be me.
Then I headed back to Bluezoo for a gathering of the Washington chapter, and then to Il Mulino for a gathering of the cherries, and then to a conference room for YARWA’s first ever chapter meeting and a talk from two RITA winning YA authors. And then back to Il Mulino to catch the tail end of the cherry gathering. (Yes, Thursday is typically the day many chapter gatherings happen, since most publisher gatherings are Friday.)

Friday I went to some signings and some workshops. I met a lovely gentleman in the hallway who was knitting a clapotis. He’s published a romance with Samhain I need to check out. (I showed off my project with Madeline Tosh Pashmina.) The lovely (yes, I have just decided to stick with that adjective) Jayne Ann Krentz spoke. (Summary - Try not to kill your career, but if you do, it may be fixable.)
More workshops and signings. Went to dinner. Headed through the bar and ran into a lovely knitting writer friend so we hung in the bar (conveniently placed between the escalator and the lobby) for a good couple hours.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Day 3 of the Disneyfication

Wednesday I got up in a little more leisurely manner, which may not have been the best choice since I was headed to Epcot. I did head over to the Dolphin to pick up my packet and cool canvas bag (with books!)
Since I was in the loose collection of Epcot resorts, I was able to take a water taxi. (Yes, I probably also could have walked, but the water taxi was fun and shady.) First, Wednesday was hotter and the sun was strong. And despite having been to Epcot before (although in a previous millennium) I had forgotten it’s complete lack of shade. If you weren’t pressed against a tree or building, there wasn’t any. But, that’s fine, Epcot has lots of shady air conditioned rides and exhibits. Well, yes, but guess where all those people who got there early, or arrived with me went? This was exacerbated by the fact that most of the international side didn’t open up at nine with the park, it opened at eleven or later.
All this meant the line for Soarin was estimated at a seventy minute wait, and the fast passes were for three or later and I knew I was already wilting, I was not going to still be here at three. So, I went to check and see if Test Track was better. Test Track was at about an eighty minute wait but fortunately had a single rider line that was at ten minutes. So I did that. Despite being a mini commercial for GM, it was totally fun. You do have to sort of trust the ride a bit, because - while you are on a track - they simulate doing car tests such as braking so you do twist and turn and then there is the collision test.
I also found an (indoor) exhibit where they put you in a video game which was pretty fun. Yes, they film you running, jumping and victory dancing and put that in the video game.
Then I wandered through the countries and stopped at China for lunch. The placemat had Chinese characters with a short history and a place to fill them in. My waitress gave me crayon, which both pleased me and made me wonder what about me said give me a crayon. (I did use it to practice my characters, and my waitress complimented them.) I had a light lunch of cucumber salad and dumplings (yes, I consider that light) and then wandered through the rest of the “countries” before heading back to the hotel for an afternoon siesta.
Then I headed over to the Dolphin for the literacy signing. I cannot stress how amazing these things are if you like books or talking to authors. Over 500 authors (not a typo) were there signing and chatting with readers and all the money raised from the sales at the signing goes to support literacy projects. I made a quick circuit - for authors I have been lucky enough to meet I will often say high, but if they have a line I usually move on since a - I may see them again throughout the conference and b - others should have their first shot. So, I knew that the little flags for the Young Adult authors chapter (YARWA) were hidden with various YARWAers who were signing. Tera Lynn Childs had a big line, but I did find the lovely Melissa Francis and she had flags! Yay! We had a nice chat before I went to say hi to the also lovely Rachael Herron. While chatting, Robin Kaye’s mom stopped by since Rachael’s book has knitting in the title (and the book) and mentioned that her daughter was a big knitter, weaver and spinner. I later stopped to say hi to Ms. Kaye and told her that we had met her mom and that her mom had not said anything embarrassing (Robin and I met at the WRW conference since we are both members of the Washington chapter). Then I stopped by to see the lovely fellow Cherry Corrina Lawson (who I met way back at Cherry Con) and she was signing her awesome book (now finished, very good alternative timeline historical romance).
After the signing Corrina and I hung out in her room and with her lovely roommates before heading to bed.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Day 1 and 2 of the Disneyfication

Last week I was in Disney World. Since some of my days were less interesting, at least as far as long recounting, I’ll do some squisheding. The purpose of my visit was the RWA National Conference, which had been originally scheduled for Nashville, in the Opryland Hotel which sadly found it’s conference rooms filled with about ten feet of water this spring, forcing them to cancel. (The Literacy Signing, which we will get to later, still made donations to Nashville area programs.) So we moved to Disney, or technically the Dolphin and Swan Hotels, located near Epcot. They are Starwood hotels which meant we had some different food contracts, but you could still breakfast with characters should you wish too. I also feel that the Disney effect was present in the training of the excellent staff found in the hotel and restaurants.

So, Monday I arrived at the Dulles airport early enough that (especially combined with my pre-check in online - one of the best inventions ever) I was not in danger of not being let on the flight, but late enough that my bag got a pretty yellow tag indicating that it was late. Sadly, this just a bit late thing became a bit of a theme, although happily, no tragedies, travel or otherwise occurred.
I then went to grab a shuttle, telling them I was in the Dolphin and Swan and the very nice lady explained that they were two hotels, albeit next to each other, so it would be helpful if I could tell them which one. Well, my ipod kept freezing on the free airport wifi, so I ended up switching to my phone and finally getting to my info to learn I was in the swan. Our shuttle driver was very chatty and full of tips and information as for where to go for snacks, and the best restaurants to try, and how to handle confirming out return shuttle trip. I imagine when folks are going to Disney it’s easier to expect that they are tourists.
We arrived, I checked in, hung up all my clothes and then decided to check out this fabulous pool. They had one sort of standard lap pool, and then further down (closer to the Dolphin) a “grotto” pool with stone sides and a waterfall and a bridge over the middle. The bridge was helpful, since it provided shade. The pool was deep in enough places to feel cooler than bathwater despite the steamy heat.
Later I headed back and dried off and relaxed before heading to the Disney boardwalk for dinner. I went to Kouzzina by Cat Cora where my food was delicious and my waiter was solicitous, even giving suggestions for better food enjoyment. (Dinner: Spanopakita, wine, and the entree trio - small portions of lasagna, cinnamon chicken and a baby lamb slider. All delicious.)
I also found the general store, where in addition to many Disney trinkets, I found milk (I had brought chai with me.)

Tuesday I set the alarm since I had been assured that the best time to hit Animal Kingdom was morning both because the record setting July heat would be less of a pain and because the animals were more likely to be doing something other than sleeping in the shade (due to the record setting July heat). I took the bus from the hotel to Animal Kingdom and discovered as I made my way in (where seriously, even the guy who searched my bag was super friendly) that I was so early that I was going to get to see the opening. Whoops. The opening was actually cute (Mickey Minnie and Pluto make sure they have everything they need including sunscreen) and short. The safari was popular so I got a Fast Pass and made my way around to the animal preserve before heading back. Fortunately Animal Kingdom - in their attempt to make it look like you may have globe-trotted to Asia or Africa (or Dino-land) had lots of trees. So, in addition to my hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen, I had a good amount of shade. I went back to the safari and saw a good amount of animals including my personal favorites rhinos (black and white). The safari had a storyline that was amusing enough and yet did not intrude on your ability to animal watch. (And kudos to the drivers who must go through that script many, many times a day.) I did the Tiger Trail and some other animal watching bits before deciding that I’d rather have lunch back at the hotel and heading back to the buses. After lunch I went back to the room for a little relaxation figuring I’d head to Typhoon Lagoon once the sun was a little lower in the sky.
Well, the first thing I discovered was that the Typhoon Lagoon bus was a multi-stop bus. We started at the Swan and then went to the Dolphin (understandably, although I should mention the Dolphin is a Florida dolphin-fish, not a dolphin dolphin, it’s what many people call mahi mahi). After that we went to the Beach Club (another hotel), and then the Yacht Club (same) and then we went to Downtown Disney (all restaurants and shops as far as I can tell, this is also where a princesses, a fairy, and a prince hopped onto the bus with their parents) and then, finally to Typhoon Lagoon. Now, this really was fine and it was a free bus, but I had been spoiled on my previous trip. And it did mean that the way back my hotel as first.
Now Typhoon Lagoon is a water park. It is an expensive water park. (Yes, I know, but seriously, I thought our Six Flags was bad...and yes this is because I remember when that Six Flags was Wild World and had a twenty dollar entry.) But, Typhoon Lagoon has a Shark Reef and you can snorkel with sharks and stingrays. Now first, I should clarify that this is not like the trip - say - that my uncle took where you scubaed down and they let loose chum to attract whatever sharks chose to come by. These sharks and stingrays and fish live here and at this point one imagines they are used to humans hovering above them. I also figure that, you know, this is Disney and if these sharks or stingrays act up, they make them listen to “It’s a Small World” until they stop. Disney provides mask and snorkel (which helped with my packing) and then they let you in in groups suggesting you swim arms only, which they said was so you didn’t kick the folks behind you (I wondered if it also decreased your chances of annoying the sea life). It was really cool, if short little trip. It looks kind of like a pool with a reef and shipwreck stuck in the middle. They have a bridge if you want to see without danger of touching. After that I went for a turn on the lazy river before heading back to the hotel and out to dinner.
Dinner was at Bluezoo - a Todd English restaurant. It was fabulous, and again I had superior service and ended up getting talked into dessert which was a delicious raspberry concoction but after tuna tartar and yellowtail fish with a soy ginger sauce dessert stuffed me.