The Case of the Mysterious Beep

I had a lot of stuff I needed to do to get ready to release a new book this week, but last week I got sidetracked by a mystery I had to solve. Let’s call it The Case of the Mysterious Beep. If you follow me on Twitter you may have been able to follow the case in real time, and I’ve also mentioned it on Facebook, but here’s the full story.

Sometime last week, I heard an electronic beep in my office. My first thought was that a smoke detector was telling me its battery was running low, but it didn’t sound like it was coming from the smoke detector, which is closer to the foot of the stairs. Plus, it’s the kind with a built-in ten-year battery and is less than a year old, so unless something had gone wrong, it shouldn’t be beeping at me. The next time I heard the beep, I thought it sounded like it was coming from my Internet router. I looked it up online, and there was a mention that it might beep if the backup battery was running low, but then I looked up the manual for this router, and it gives you the info about a low battery in a different way. The battery indicator on the router should have been red, and there was no light at all. I got into the control panel for the router, and it said there was no battery installed and the audio alerts were disabled. One possibility was that there was an intermittent power issue, and it was beeping when coming back online. The surge protector it was plugged into was pretty old, so I figured I’d get a new one. I shut the office door when I went downstairs at the end of the workday so the sound wouldn’t bother me.

But then I still heard the beep downstairs that evening. It sounded like it might be coming from the thermostat, which has a battery backup to hold the programming in case of power outage. I found the manual, and it said there’s a low battery indicator on the screen, not a beep.

I heard the beep in the office again the next day, and it seemed to be coming from a different direction. I changed the battery in the little clock on my desk. Still, there was another beep about an hour later. I wondered if maybe there was something in the box with my old desk toys/trade show swag. I remembered that when I worked at the advertising/PR firm, we cleaned out a supply closet and found some cards the firm had done for a former client that had a sound chip that played the sound of a ringing phone when you opened them. Instead of throwing those out, we saved some and used them for office pranks — wait until someone leaves the office for a meeting, then open a card and slide it into a folder in the filing cabinet so they had a ringing phone sound until they found it or the card died (it only lasted a few hours of constant play). I did a lot of work for telecom companies, so I have all kinds of little gadgets relating to phones, and maybe one of them was giving out dying wails. But I heard the beep while going through that stuff and it came from a different place.

It was weird how it sometimes sounded like it was coming from the office, and sometimes I didn’t hear it downstairs, but sometimes it seemed to be coming from downstairs. Friday evening, I remembered that there’s another smoke detector, one I’d bought but not installed (I realized I wouldn’t be able to easily reach the detector to change batteries, since it was over the stairs, so I got the ten-year kind). I hadn’t thought it came with a battery, but I decided to check, and it did come with a battery installed. It was on the loft outside the office, so that explained why I heard it in the office and downstairs. I ripped the battery out, and problem solved.

Except not. I heard the beep again the next morning. Now I was getting frantic. It was one beep every hour or so, so it wasn’t that annoying, but I was concerned about what might be going wrong with the thing that was beeping. Usually that kind of intermittent beep is a sign that there’s a problem. I started noticing that the beep happened exactly every hour, and just a couple of minutes after the top of the hour, like it was chiming the hour on a clock that was a minute off. I started checking everything that had a clock in it. I changed or removed batteries in clocks, the digital camera, the weather radio. I unplugged just about everything that made a sound. As I neared the top of each hour, I’d go stand next to a suspect to see if I heard the beep coming from it. I’d bought a new surge protector and I put the router on it, then waited for the beep and not only didn’t hear anything coming from it, I didn’t hear the beep at all.

And then I was downstairs for the next hour and heard the beep. I was starting to contemplate moving and leaving everything behind to escape it. It was like that Edgar Allan Poe poem about The Bells, only it was The Beep. I’d ruled out two smoke detectors, the thermostat, the router, everything in the kitchen, and the phone.

The answer came to me at about five the next morning when I was lying awake, fretting about this. It really did seem like a digital watch that chimed the hour, but I don’t have a digital watch. And then I remembered that I do — the stopwatch I use to time writing sessions. It has a clock mode. That would explain everything. It’s on my desk on work days, but it gets moved around and is sometimes under notebooks or papers, so the sound would move around my office. I generally bring it downstairs with me in the evenings if I’m doing research or brainstorming. That was why the sound followed me around the house. I was literally carrying it with me, but since it was just one beep per hour, I was never next to or holding the watch when it went off. When I was checking the router and didn’t hear the beep, the watch was downstairs and had fallen between sofa cushions.

As it approached the next hour, I got the watch and held it — and it beeped at the top of the hour! I must have hit the wrong button while carrying it and activated the hourly chime. I pushed buttons until I figured out how to turn it off, and I was free of the beep. And greatly relieved that I didn’t have to move to escape it.

I don’t want to think about the number of hours I spent tracking that down. I got almost nothing accomplished on Saturday from tinkering with things and then running to stand next to something every hour. I still get a bit twitchy when I hear a beeping sound. The sound my electronic toaster oven makes when food is done is similar to The Beep (for a while, I thought it might have been the culprit), and I flinch when it tells me my toast is ready. Squeaking truck brakes on the road outside sometimes make me think The Beep is back.

At least now all my devices have new batteries and have been reset.

My Books

Pre-Order the Next Mystery

Case of the Broken Bridge book coverI got my act together, so I will hit my targeted release date. Case of the Broken Bridge will be released next Thursday in e-book. I’m aiming at getting the paperback around that time, but you never can tell how long it will take for those to go live and be shipped. You can pre-order at Amazon, Kobo, and Apple, so far. I’ll try to keep up with the links as stores go live. Check the book’s page on my site for all the information and purchase links.

This book was a very long time in the making. I first outlined it last year. I think it was going to be #4, happening during the summer and before the back-to-school timeframe of Vanishing Visitor. And then I realized there was no way I could get three books written before Halloween, and I really wanted to do the Haunted Hotel book then. So, I put this story aside to use it later.

Early this year, I got out those notes to write the book. It actually fit even better in the timeline this way, since it involves a bridge that got washed out during a storm, and there’s a bad storm in Haunted Hotel. There was just one problem: I seem to have knocked over a water glass and spilled something on my notes, and the ink washed out on the page where I wrote my ideas for how to resolve the story. So, I had all the setup but I couldn’t remember how to resolve it and had to figure that out all over again.

Then as I was writing the book, on the scene in which the victim is found, I heard several loud pops coming from the street by my house, and soon I was watching a crime scene team on the street my office window overlooks for what turned out to be a murder investigation. It was a shooting, someone in one car shooting at the person in the next car, and from what I can tell, the actual shooting happened right in front of my office window (my office is on the second floor, and it overlooks a major road that’s on the other side of a tall brick wall from my house). I didn’t see anything because I was writing, but I heard the gunshots. Not long after that, I was watching the evening news, and they mentioned a shooting at a coffee shop in a nearby town — and I knew the victim. She was the daughter of some friends from church. I’ve known her since she was born. In fact, I had her baby photo on my refrigerator until I got a new one a couple of years ago and cleared off the baby photos of kids who were in college.

At that point, I just couldn’t make myself write murder mysteries. Murder wasn’t something for fun and entertainment. I put that book aside and worked on something else. But then this summer I found myself thinking about it, and I wanted to get closure, so I finished it. And then the timeline worked out so that I needed to do a Christmas book.

This book is a locked-room mystery, but with a paranormal twist. I ended up having a lot of fun writing it, and I think that the emotions I associated with it because of everything that happened around it ended up making it a really strong book, probably the best in this series so far. I’m proud of this one.

I’ve drafted the Christmas book, and I’m about to start revising it. I hope to get it out just before Thanksgiving.

I’m not sure at this point when or if I’ll do more mysteries beyond that. I’ve found that I still don’t really want to read mysteries. I have a few vague possible plot ideas, but nothing firm. We’ll see what pops into my head, but for now I need to take a break from these characters. You’d think I’d learn my lesson about doing two books in the same series in a row. I can’t read two books in a series in a row. And we’ll see how the series sells. It’s been profitable, but based on the time spent writing and the amount it’s earned, I’d have made more money working those hours at a grocery store. There are some promo things I’d like to try, but if things don’t perk up on this series, I may have to call it quits at 7 books and try something else. That’s more books than a regular publisher would have given it before pulling the plug. I tried the move to mystery because it seemed like there was a big crossover audience from the Enchanted, Inc. books to cozy paranormal mysteries, but it seems not. Or else they haven’t found out about it. It’s a pretty crowded field. I don’t know if it’s a visibility/discoverability issue or a problem with the books themselves, but I need things to tick up a bit before I invest a lot more time in these. Or maybe I’m just tired after a few months of crunching and I’ll be eager to return to this series after I work on something else. I’ve actually planned my writing schedule for the next two quarters, so maybe that will help me stay sane.


Fortunate Fools

A few weekends ago, I rewatched the Bill and Ted films. I have the first one on DVD, after seeing it multiple times in the theater. I saw it during the initial release, and then it played at the dollar theater across the street from my university campus, so my friends and I went multiple times. I saw the second one when it came out, but I don’t know if I’d seen it all the way through since then. There were parts I remembered clearly, but I didn’t remember the big picture story. I got the DVD of the third one when it came out. I noticed that they were all on Amazon Prime, so since I could see the second one, I decided it was time for a rewatch. (Warning: there are two versions of Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey on Amazon, and the one that comes up first in recommendations is a rent/buy, but it’s also in Prime Video if you scroll further.)

Something that struck me upon this viewing is that the first two movies, in particular, are a modern telling of a “fortunate fool” story. This is a fairy tale archetype in which a good-hearted simpleton manages to bumble through life unaware of threats against him and always manages to come out ahead. He may stumble into trouble because he’s a bit of an idiot, but he also gets out of trouble easily due to a combination of good luck and good karma. He collects friends and allies easily and shows kindness. He’s the kind of guy who’ll see a hungry person and give him his own food, and then later realize that he’s hungry and has no food. But he wins in the long run, usually getting the princess.

Which is basically Bill and Ted. They stumble their way through history, collecting their historical figures and managing to win them over. They seldom lose their good natures and don’t really hold a lot of malice, even when people wrong them. They benefit from a lot of good luck and good timing, getting out of trouble in the nick of time. And they end up with princesses.

I have to wonder how intentional this was. Were the writers conscious of this trope and deliberately using it, or did they maybe absorb it subconsciously from fairy tales? I know that the Bill and Ted characters started as a bit the writers did as stand-up comedy and they wrapped a plot around these characters, but I don’t know if there was more to it than just these airhead guys.

Oddly enough, the description of this trope at TV Tropes fits Bill and Ted perfectly, but they aren’t mentioned among the examples.

The third film goes in a different direction. It’s more about dealing with destiny and facing mortality in the Bill and Ted side of the plot. The daughters are doing the running around in time part of the story, but the daughters are geniuses, with extensive in-depth knowledge of music theory and an ability to have conversations about quantum physics.

I love these movies so much (I need to get a DVD copy of the second film). They’re very much happy place viewing, and they never fail to make me grin. There’s something infectious about their zest for life and tight friendship. It’s even more fun when you know that the two actors became friends while filming and are still close all these years later.

End of an Era

As an American who’s something of an Anglophile, I’m struck by the loss of Queen Elizabeth. It shouldn’t have been a shock, given that she was 96 and lost her husband last year (in fact, I was kind of expecting her to die sooner because people in that age range who’ve lost a long-time spouse tend to go pretty quickly afterward), but at the same time, she somehow seemed eternal so it’s a bit shocking that she’s suddenly gone. I’m not really a royalist, just the Masterpiece Theatre breed of Anglophile who likes visiting castles, but I’m oddly fascinated by the idea of royalty because I don’t really understand it, and when I don’t understand something, I study it to try to make sense of it.

I think my first awareness of Queen Elizabeth was from her Silver Jubilee when I was a little kid. I have a metal box I kept my “treasures” in, and I pasted pictures I cut out of magazines on it. There’s a picture from the Silver Jubilee on it. But my first real impression of her came from reading Anne Frank’s diary. She talked about wishing that the pretty Princess Elizabeth could be queen and seemed to think that would make things better. I put that together with the picture pasted on my box, and it turned her into a real person for me. Even now, I remember the way Anne Frank talked about her when I hear about her.

I had a friend in junior high who was really into the royals, and I think that was why I bothered getting up early to watch Charles and Diana’s wedding. Then it became something of a habit, so I’ve watched all the major royal weddings since then. I also watched Prince Philip’s funeral, just for historical purposes. I had a degree of separation from him, since I’ve met the woman whose wedding his sisters were going to when they were killed in a plane crash (she was married to a German grand duke in the area near where we lived, and my class got to visit her house on a field trip. She showed us around and served us sparkling cider and cookies on the terrace). So now I’ll be watching this funeral and coronation, since it is history.

It’ll be weird for England to have a king again after so long with a queen. I have some British money from my last trip. I didn’t exchange it back because I was hoping to travel again soon (alas, life had other plans), and now I suppose it’s a collector’s item. I wonder how long it’ll be considered valid before they phase out the Elizabeth money and transition to Charles money.

My condolences to those who are mourning, and I’m aware that there are a lot of people in the Commonwealth and former empire who have very mixed feelings. I think most of my feelings are about the end of an era. She was a constant in the world. The leadership of most nations has changed over and over again, and Queen Elizabeth was always there. Now even that’s changed.

As a fantasy writer, I wrestle with the idea of royalty. It’s sort of baked into the standard old-school fantasy and fairy tales, but the idea that this person is the best one to rule you because their parent was the ruler still doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. As I’ve said, look at the Habsburgs, especially in Spain at the height of the inbreeding effects, and can you really think that these people are superior? That was a lot of the spark behind my Rebels books, coming up with a real reason why this class of people is considered superior—they have magic, and they make a lot of effort to keep it within their class so they’ll stay special. In some of the books I’m developing, I’ve tried to come up with other ways of choosing rulers or I’m looking at the weaknesses in that kind of system.


Impatient Projects

This is my catch up and get my life together week in between book drafts, and wouldn’t you know, that’s when an entirely different book pops up in my head and starts giving me details. That makes it really hard to focus on doing stuff like writing cover copy, thinking about metadata, and planning promo campaigns.

I have to tell that project to be patient because it’s next month’s work. I’m jotting down the thoughts that occur to me so I don’t forget them, and I hope I have this same kind of eager enthusiasm when I start writing it that I have now and that my current eager enthusiasm isn’t just because writing this book sounds a lot more fun than proofreading or messing with metadata. Sometimes when I get like this, I designate some trigger for switching gears to play with the thing that’s demanding attention. Like, when it’s raining I can work on the other thing, but otherwise I have to focus on the main work. Unfortunately, after a couple of weeks of frequent rain, there’s little chance for the next week, so that won’t work. Maybe I’ll think of a composer, and when the classical station plays that composer, during that piece I can play with something different.

That other project really isn’t ready to be written. I have a lot of development work to do, which I guess is what my brain is working on. I’m not getting bits of plot. It’s more details about the world. Like figuring whether there would be a bridge to cross this river at this point, or maybe a ferry, and what kind of ferry. I must have crossed that river a dozen times in my head as I was falling asleep last night, changing the details each time. This is not an important scene in the book, but the details do help create the world, and the details might end up influencing other things.

I’m doing some of that brainstorming work in the evenings. But for now, back to the other work that’s essential and sometimes fun but that tends to trigger story ideas for other things I want to write.

Holiday Weekend

I finished the first draft of Lucky Lexie 8, which is a Christmas book, yesterday, and since it’s the Labor Day holiday weekend, I’m taking a long weekend. Every finished draft deserves a day off. It’s going to be rainy off and on this weekend, so I’m planning on a lot of tea and reading. See you next week!

Nearing the End

I’m in the writing phase when I’m close enough to the end of the book that I have an extra surge of adrenaline and want to keep plowing ahead while everything else falls by the wayside. In a way, that’s good because it means the book gets written, but it also means that I emerge blinking from the book haze after typing “the end” and notice the piles of dishes and laundry, as well as all the administrative tasks that have fallen by the wayside.

I’ve given myself permission not to worry too much about all that. At my current pace, and with the amount of story I have left, I should finish this draft this week, and then I can relax during the Labor Day weekend before catching up on all the other work I need to get done.

I have figured out that maybe writing two books in a series back-to-back without much of a break in between is a bad idea. By the end of the second one, I find myself wanting to write anything other than these people. I can seldom read two books in a series back-to-back without wanting to abandon the second book midway through, so it makes sense that I’d be the same way with writing.

So, I’ve figured out that I generally need to be writing something. I can take about a week off, but I need to mix a little writing in when I’m doing other tasks, like editing or proofreading or promotion. But I can’t write two books in the same series back-to-back. I don’t know how those people who have something like thirty books in a long-running series do it. Most of those people are working in romance, so they have different main characters with each book, and that may help. Or there are people like Terry Pratchett, who was mostly writing in the same universe, so it’s technically all part of the same series, but there are miniseries within that universe, so he was dealing with different aspects of that world and different characters. I don’t think he did two books on the same topic in a row. He seemed to rotate among the guards, the wizards, the witches, Death, etc.

For next year’s writing, I think I’m going to be better about planning what I’m going to be working on and setting deadlines so that I can space out my work and the tasks I need to do instead of getting into weird crunches like I tend to have. I’m bad about going on a whim and not setting deadlines for myself. Which is weird because I make plans for fun. You’d think I’d do that for my work.

And now I have a couple thousand more words I want to write today. My heroine is about to carry out a madcap plan for catching the bad guy.


Strange Writing Advice

Since I’m somewhat addicted to writing how-to stuff like books, workshops, articles, etc., I occasionally run into some advice that strikes me as a bit odd.

For instance, a few weeks ago, I saw a workshop in which the speaker said it was better to write your first draft in longhand than to type it on a computer. She had some reasons that made sense. For one thing, there are fewer distractions. You can’t check e-mail, Facebook or Instagram (though that depends on where your computer or phone are while you’re writing longhand). You can’t delete stuff you don’t like. You can only scratch through it, so it’s still there, and that means if you change your mind you can retrieve it. There was also something about how the act of writing longhand engages differently with your brain than typing does.

I’m afraid I’d never get a book written if I had to write it longhand. I do my brainstorming and outlining longhand, but when it comes to actual composition, it goes straight from my brain to my fingers. A lot of the time, I’m not even conscious of the words. They just flow as I type, and I type quickly. Writing longhand would seriously slow my productivity. I also have terrible handwriting. I had a teacher once who found it odd that such a good student had such bad handwriting, and he watched me as I was writing in class, then told me he’d thought I was just being lazy and sloppy, but he could see that I really was trying. He figured that I don’t have good fine motor control in my hands. I don’t have a lot of grip strength, and that may have something to do with it. The more tired I get, the less control I have over my writing, so by the time I got to the end of a writing session, I’d be in pain and I’d have absolutely no idea what I’d written.

Which would tie to the next weird bit of writing advice I’ve heard. At a conference I went to about twenty years ago, a speaker said the way to do a second draft was to finish your first draft, put it aside without looking at it, and write the book again. Supposedly, you’d remember the important parts, but since you knew how the book went, there would be less meandering and rambling. You’d remember the stuff you liked, forget the boring parts, and would have a better draft than you’d get just rearranging the words from the first draft.

I know a lot of authors who write longhand drafts, but I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who did a second draft by just rewriting the book. If I wrote a longhand draft, the second draft when I transcribed it into the computer would essentially be writing from scratch because I wouldn’t be able to read what I wrote in the first place, so maybe combining the two might work, though it would seriously slow me down.

I have started fresh with a difficult scene when I’ve realized that the way I’m doing it isn’t working and I can’t break away from what I’ve written if I just try to edit, but I’m not writing the same scene over again. I’m writing something entirely different. I am working on a project in which I’m rewriting instead of editing, but I’m writing a whole new book using the same basic premise, not writing the same book over again.

I’m considering giving longhand writing a try. After the terrible summer we’ve had, in which I’ve basically been trapped inside the house, I’m planning to spend as much time as possible outdoors once it gets cool enough, so I may take a notebook with me and go sit in the woods or by the lake to write. It won’t be a whole draft by hand, but I may write scenes that way. We’ll see what happens and how it works. I’m willing to give just about any bit of writing advice a try because I never know how it will end up working for me, but it has to be drastically better for me to change my entire process.


Disappointing Dresses

Last weekend, I watched the 1965 TV version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Cinderella. I remember watching it on TV as a very small child when they used to air it every year (I wasn’t born when it was first on, but I believe it was an annual TV tradition for a while after that). Watching this made me think about how often the revelation of the magical dress that totally transforms the heroine ends up being disappointing.

The dresses in most versions of Cinderella are actually pretty blah. They’re pretty, but not really anything that you’d think only a fairy godmother could conjure up or that would make her stand out from the crowd. The one in the Disney animated version is kind of dull. I think the dress she and the mice make that the stepsisters destroy is far prettier and more interesting. I remember as a child being disappointed with what she wears to the ball. The one in the TV version I just watched is pretty plain. It’s prettier than the things everyone else is wearing, but it’s nothing special. The dress in the more recent stage adaptation of the TV musical is mostly interesting because they pull off the transformation live on stage, but that means the dress itself isn’t that spectacular, since it has to fit inside the peasant dress to unfold as she spins around. It’s a neat bit of special effects, but it’s not a magical gown. About the only Cinderella dress that really lives up to the hype is the one in the live-action Disney film, where they used layers of tulle and LED lights to make the dress truly look magical, so that it changes color subtly as she moves and it looks lit from within.

It’s not just the magical dresses that can be a letdown. The same thing happens in non-magical stories. Ever since I was a child, I’ve hated the ballgown in My Fair Lady. It was like a 1960s evening dress suddenly appeared, and the hair also doesn’t really work for me. I like the dress from the Broadway version a lot better. It’s more apt for the period than the movie gown is.

And I can rant for hours about Pretty in Pink. She cut up a really cute dress to make a new creation for the prom, and everyone acts stunned when they see her, but the dress she made looks like something the mother of the groom would wear to an afternoon wedding.

In some cases, I’m sure my reaction is about perspective. The My Fair Lady movie dress probably was stunning to someone from the era when the movie was first made, since it was what was in style at the time. Now it just looks dated while not really fitting the time of the movie. Then again, I was a teen in the 80s, and I still think the Pretty in Pink dress is horrid. It was ugly then and now. I think showing up in the actual vintage dress would have been a bigger statement.

Now I’m trying to think of any dramatic transformations on film that really live up to the hype, aside from the live-action Cinderella. Is there a dress that’s supposedly knocking everyone’s socks off that really does knock your socks off? The nice thing about writing books is that I have an unlimited wardrobe budget for my characters, and everyone gets to imagine their idea of a fabulous dress, so no one’s disappointed.


Fiction Becomes Real

I guess I’ve been on a “fiction becomes reality” kick lately, because after watching The Boyfriend School a couple of weeks ago, last weekend’s movies were The Lost City and Galaxy Quest, which also fall into that trope.

The Lost City is a spoof of the Romancing the Stone sort of film, in which a novelist gets dragged into the kind of adventure she writes about. In this case, an eccentric billionaire kidnaps a reclusive novelist because her latest book made him think she knew how to find a treasure he’s seeking, and her himbo cover model decides to stage a rescue mission that doesn’t quite go as planned.

This movie is an absolute hoot. I did have to turn off the part of my brain that knows anything about publishing because they seem to have written it as though it was movies but then changed it to books (a book tour doesn’t really work like a Hollywood press junket) and they don’t seem to understand that if you have a long series about the same hero, they’re probably not romance novels. But I laughed out loud so often during this movie. It somehow manages to be a spoof of the genre and an excellent example of it. It stands on its own as a romantic adventure movie while also sending up the tropes of that kind of movie. Everyone involved seems to be in on the joke, having fun and not taking themselves too seriously, sometimes mocking their own images. We’ve got Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter’s all grown up!) gleefully chewing the scenery as the villain, Channing Tatum playing the himbo with surprising depths while still leaning in to his character’s foibles, Brad Pitt having tons of fun mocking his own image, and Sandra Bullock pulling off an older, wiser version of the “spunky kid” type she played earlier in her career. Meanwhile, all the supporting characters are given something that fleshes them out and makes them memorable.

It’s on Amazon Prime, and I don’t know how long it will stay (movies seem to rotate in and out more rapidly lately). I may have to watch it again while it’s there. If you liked Romancing the Stone, check this one out.

I saw Galaxy Quest at the theater when it came out, but I don’t think I’ve seen it since then. There were parts that I remembered but a lot that I didn’t, and there were a lot of people I didn’t realize were in the movie. They’re known now, but that was an early (or first) role. That movie, about the cast of a Star Trek-like series that gets recruited for a mission by aliens who saw their show and thought it was real, is an excellent example of setups and payoffs. Every character gets established with a “thing” early in the movie that establishes their arc, and they all pay off at some point in the movie, which makes it all quite satisfying. One that works particularly well is Alan Rickman’s character ranting about hating his character’s tagline, and then he delivers it with utter sincerity later in the movie in a scene that’s quite emotional.

I’ve been a Star Trek fan most of my life (apparently, my mom watched part of the original run while feeding me when I was an infant), so it’s fun catching the way this movie lovingly sends up so many of the Trek tropes. It’s aged surprisingly well.

Mashing up all these things I’ve watched lately now kind of makes me want to write the story of the reclusive fantasy author who gets taken through a portal to a magical world, where they think she can coach them in defeating the Dark Lord and recruiting a team of heroes, since it looks to them like she’s an expert, thanks to her books that they think are histories. Or something like that. I’m trying to decide if her genre savvy would turn out to help or if it would turn out that nothing works the way it does in fiction. We could throw in a recent divorce and make it Under the Tuscan Sun meets Galaxy Quest, but in Narnia.