Saturday, December 22, 2007

Two views of the same scene

Both from a shopping trip I made yesterday.


A middle-aged man in a gray car parks in front of the Lowe's. He gets out, walks to the hot-dog stand near the store's entrance, and waits in line, a stern look on his face, while the slow clerk serves the two customers in front of him. When his turn comes, he buys two hot dogs, takes them to his car, and eats them, alone in a nondescript vehicle on a gray day, the Friday before Christmas.


I had some errands to run and was looking forward to the time alone and offline, no way for email to reach me. As a food gift to myself during the calorie-rich holidays, I went to a nearby hot dog stand that serves Sabretts. On the drive there, I listened to and enjoyed the last few songs on John Fogerty's recent album, Revival. The stand operator was busy helping two other people, but I didn't mind, because he was quick, efficient, and kept up an entertaining, non-stop patter as he perfectly composed each tube steak to the customer's taste. He also made my dogs just as I wanted them. I took them back to the car. I ate them slowly, savoring the taste, as I listened to the excellent John Hiatt album, Live from Austin, TX. Christmas was almost here, I was having a treat, great music was playing, and no work would touch me for a few hours. Life was good.


Point of view is so very, very important.

My other essential Christmas movie is

Bad Santa, well, actually, the unrated Badder Santa version. It's crude, rude, offensive, and outrageous, but by the end it shows its heart, and along the way you laugh madly. We gathered tonight to watch it, eat sandwiches (if you don't know the film, Granny in it is oblivious to most of the world but always offers to make sandwiches), and then ate amazing desserts from what in my opinion is the best bakery in Raleigh, Hereghty.

While grocery shopping I indulged a whim and bought a lot of bacon, which Rana was nice enough to cook. We consumed 2.5 pounds of it in our sandwiches! Everything's better with bacon.

And now back to plotting.

Friday, December 21, 2007

It's cold and rainy and I'm glad

Well, I'm not glad about the cold part, but I am very glad it's raining. We're in the midst of a long and bad drought, so any rain is good. We're not getting much, but I'm glad for every drop that falls.

A plot and a mountain of gifts to wrap are calling my name, so I'll keep it short tonight and hope that your weather pleases you as much as mine does me.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Dropping stitches

Between my company being crazy busy, the demands of the holidays, and my daily work on Overthrowing Heaven, I'm not sleeping a lot these days. I'm doing fine on the jobs, but I'm making a lot of errors in personal areas. Tonight I made a doozie: I forgot to invite Dave and Jo to our annual tree-trimming party. I've made similar email list errors recently as well. I hate screwing up, and I really hate it when my friends pay for my errors.

The party itself was as it should be: low-key but fun. Because we shopped late, this year's tree is smaller than usual, but it has a good shape, is well over seven feet tall, and looks great decorated. We hung ornaments and lights on it; ate spaghetti, garlic bread, salad, and apple cake; chatted about this and that; and generally had a nice time.

My plotting work on Overthrowing Heaven continues. I'm grooving on the book, because it's coming together (albeit slower than I would like). I expect to be typing up an outline by January and writing for real before that month is out. I look forward to being at the stage of staring at a blank screen until drops of blood appear on my forehead.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Slanted Jack is off to production

Today was a happy day for Slanted Jack, and thus for me as well. Toni accepted the novel yesterday and said it would head into production after the holidays. I received my turn-in payment from the always prompt Baen Books. I made a few printouts and gave them out.

I'm done with that book until it's time to review the copyedited ms.

I look forward to seeing it as a Baen eARC and then in print.

My focus now is Overthrowing Heaven, whose plot is beginning to show signs of coming together. I'm continuing to like this one, and I hope others will, too--when they get to read it in 2009.

Of course, when The Dread hits me in a few months this optimism will vanish, but for now the book is bright and shiny and full of possibility. I'm enjoying the feeling.

Things that piss me off

Stores that make it hard for you to spend your money.

We've all suffered through them, but this time of year they're particularly annoying.

You're in a hurry. You rush into the store, are lucky enough to find the item you want after having to dodge only three salespeople, take it to the register, have your credit card and driver's license ready, and think you're going to escape unscathed.

Wrong. The ordeal is just beginning.

Clerk: "Is that all?"


"Did you see our special on [some damn crap you don't want]?"

"No, and I don't care. I just want to buy this and go."

"So that's all?"


"Would you like to save ten percent by signing up for a store credit card?"

"No. I just want to buy this."

"It's a great deal. You should try it."

"No. I just want to buy this."

Much fumbling of keys, scanning of labels, removing and/or demagnetizing of security devices, and so on. "Your total is [too damn much]. Will that be cash or credit?"

Waving the credit card that's been in front of the clerk's face the whole time, as well as the driver's license you've had at the ready with it, you say, "Credit card."

After taking both, the clerk says, "I'll need to see your id." Giggle. [I must now interrupt the narrative flow to note that if you're like me, that giggle is almost too much. It isn't amusing. It's infuriating. You're now wondering how bad it would be in jail. At least there's no shopping in the Big House. Back to the clerk.] "Oh, you already have it out."

No response this time; you don't dare.

And now, here's a special detour through Hell you probably don't have to take: Clerk stares at license for a few minutes, forehead crinkling with the effort of thought. Then, "Did you know your last name is 'Name'?"

Depending on my rage level, I either

* say nothing and scowl, praying that perhaps I have finally developed the power to boil the brain of another purely with my mind

* smile and say nothing, hoping the fates will reward the kindness of a smile with the power to boil the brain of another purely with my mind

* respond, "Really? I hadn't."

At which point, the clerk points to the card, begins to speak, emits the piercing giggle again--as you realize that it's the giggle, not your mind, that has the power to boil brains--and says, "Oh, that's a joke, right?"

Back to the pain we all share.

After much fumbling of cards and scanners, the clerk smiles at the successful charge and says, "Would you like a box for that?"

"No. I just want to go."

More fumbling in the search for a bag that's big enough but not too big--wouldn't want to waste bag space--and the clerk hands you the merchandise.

"And my credit card and id?"

The giggle. More boiling of your brain as key details about the plot of the new novel vanish in the heat death of irreplaceable neurons. "Sorry." Back comes the credit card.

"And my driver's license?"

"Oh, yeah." Back comes the driver's license.

One trip through hell complete.

Is it any wonder online shopping continues to grow?

Monday, December 17, 2007

I Am Legend

We went to see this movie last night. Let's start with the two big negatives (though the first matters only if you're a fan of the original Richard Matheson novel):

* It does not follow the plot of the book.
* The happy (more or less) ending is pure Hollywood schlock.

If you can get past those, and I obviously could, then only one more thing should stand between you and going to see it:

* The movie is amazingly tense and creepy.

How tense? The other three people with me left partway through and watched bits of other films or hung out while I stayed to finish the movie. (Okay, so my behavior wasn't the most gallant, but I had paid to see the movie, and they said they were cool with me finishing it.)

I consider the high tension level of the movie, by the way, a great reason to go. You have trouble looking away. Will Smith does a terrific job, his sanity always in question and yet not initially so far gone that you can't believe in him. He holds your attention through even the most mundane parts of his days.

I recommend this movie--but with the above reservations.

Oh, yeah: Speaking of recommendations, we ate dinner beforehand at Piedmont in Durham. If you live locally and want a great meal, trust me: you need to go there.


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